PITTSBURGH — Ever since the calendar flipped to May, Roansy Contreras hasn’t been getting the results the Pittsburgh Pirates are used to seeing from the young right-hander.
After throwing six scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his final start of April, Contreras was 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA and a sub-3.00 FIP.
It looked like he might be on his way to a potential breakout season, but Contreras has had his struggles in his last half-dozen starts. Those struggles were at the forefront in the Pirates’ 9-5 loss to the Oakland A’s on Wednesday afternoon.
Contreras allowed the first seven batters in Oakland’s lineup to reach — four singles, a double and two walks. All seven of those runners scored as Contreras recorded only a single out and was pulled after facing the A’s lineup one time through.
“For some reason today, it was hard for me to get into a rhythm. I felt like my body wasn’t connected to my arm and it was hard for me to make pitches,” he said.
After his poor showing against Oakland, Contreras has seen his ERA rise all the way to 5.91 through his first 12 appearances (11 starts) of the season while he has taken the loss in four-straight decisions.
Given his struggles, the Pirates have a decision to make. Should they let him try and figure it out in the rotation? Or, should they consider a move to the bullpen?
After all, the latter was the plan for Contreras prior to Vince Velasquez going down with a reoccurring elbow injury. The right-hander made his lone relief appearance on the season on May 28 in Seattle, where he threw a pair of scoreless innings.
The bullpen option might be on the table yet again.
“I don’t think we’ve made that decision yet. We have the off-day, then we have the Mets for three and another off-day. We can figure it out,” manager Derek Shelton said. “After that we have a stretch of 17 or 18 in a row, and we’re not going to be able to go without a starter. We’ll sit down and talk about it.”
The strategy was used with Mitch Keller last season as he was in the middle of his prolonged struggles. Whether it would work for Contreras is impossible to know, but it sure worked out for Keller.
Contreras is still young. He still doesn’t have a ton of experience yet at the big league level. For his career with the Pirates, he was only thrown 154.1 innings.
There are peaks and there are valleys in big league progression. Right now, and for the better part of this season, Contreras has found himself in a valley.
“It’s been tough this year to find myself on the mound, but I’m going to continue to work hard to do that and find myself and be the Roansy that I know I can be,” he said.
Whether the righty’s next appearance comes in the first inning or out of the bullpen remains unclear for now, but Contreras isn’t too focused on that aspect of it.
“It’s just a matter of continuing to make adjustments with the stuff that I’m working on and continue to work. That’s the key and I’ll be in a good spot.”