Notes: Contreras stays confident
Recently demoted to 'pen, righty says he'll be back as starter
NEW YORK -- The plan put in place Wednesday for Jose Contreras by manager Ozzie Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper calls for the big right-hander to only be skipped for one start during this Sunday's road trip finale in Detroit.
This short period of inactivity gives Contreras a more focused chance to work through his issues on the mound, trying to find his way back to some semblance of effectiveness. With the idea in mind that Contreras will return to the rotation next weekend at home against Seattle, Contreras doesn't intend to change his extensive pregame preparatory routine despite possibly being used out of the bullpen.
If Contreras' stay in the bullpen becomes a bit more permanent, as in carrying over to the 2008 season, then the affable hurler not only would have to change his approach, but also would desire a change of franchises. Simply put, Contreras still considers himself a starting pitcher, wherever such employment might be.
"In case they don't want me as a starter, I guess they're going to have to talk, because I want to be a starter and not be anything but a starter next year," said Contreras on Thursday morning, through translator and bench coach Joey Cora. "I accepted the bullpen assignment now because I fully understand I'm struggling.
"But I'm going to be back. I'm going to be OK. Maybe for the remainder of the year I'll be in the bullpen, but I fully expect to start next year. If they don't want me as a starter next year, I want to be out of here."
Contreras spoke calmly in front of his locker and certainly didn't mean his words to come off as a threat of any sort. It's truly representative of the strong belief Contreras has in his own ability, although Contreras has lost 23 times since the 2006 All-Star break, and he has an 0-7 record and a 10.38 ERA over his last seven starts.
Guillen was apprised of Contreras' comments during his pregame chat with the media, and agreed that the White Sox could not keep a middle reliever or mop-up man on the payroll who is owed $10 million in each of the next two seasons. Guillen also said it was too early to talk about Contreras' role for 2008, but quickly added that it's up to Contreras' performance to ultimately make the decision.
"He's in our plans, but you got to look yourself in the mirror, and he's the one that made us make that decision," Guillen said. "Everyone has their opinion to make that comment, but it's up to him about if he's starting or relieving next year.
"We'll see if we can use him out of the bullpen, and that's the way we're going to do it. If Jose starts throwing the ball the way we think he can throw the ball, then he will be a starter. If not, unfortunately some people have to make moves we don't want to do."
As for talk of Contreras' reaching his limit as a pitcher, no longer being effective after the build up of innings over the years in Cuba and the United States, Contreras quickly dismisses such a notion.
"I'm going to show people I'm going to be all right," Contreras said. "People can think whatever they want to think, but I don't care what people think. I haven't got the results, but I'll be back. I'm healthy and I feel good. That's the main thing."
Family first: When Guillen initially heard about Buddy Bell's decision to let go of the Royals' managerial reigns after this season, his immediate concern was that Bell once again was battling the cancer that sidelined him at the end of last year. But when informed of Bell's decision being made to spend more time with his family, Guillen applauded the highly-respected member of his fraternity.
"Good for him," Guillen said of Bell's retirement, after praising the job Bell has done in leading the Royals. "Buddy Bell, he did a lot of great stuff for baseball. I think he's a great baseball man, unbelievably great man in baseball.
"You want people like that to stay in the game, but when you talk about people who want to spend time with family, I respect that. That's the greatest thing you can have when you're done with baseball. I was happy now that I found out it's not health."
Disciplinary silence: For the second straight day, Guillen was prepared to hear from Major League Baseball's Commissioner's Office after his pointed comments following Wednesday's 8-1 loss to the Yankees. Guillen's anger on this occasion was directed at home-plate umpire Tom Hallion, who ejected Charlie Haeger in the ninth inning of Wednesday's loss, when Haeger drilled Robinson Cano with a knuckleball.
Guillen eagerly anticipates presenting his side of the story, the same opinion he expressed Tuesday night, when he criticized Phil Cuzzi for his ejection of the manager and first baseman Paul Konerko.
"Well, they should, at least to hear my opinion," Guillen said. "I think we always hear from them, but they never hear from us. I think the last two decisions that were made, to me, they were the wrong ones. I might be wrong.
"I don't expect any suspension, but as soon as you get kicked out of the game, you obviously get fined. We'll see what they're going to do."
Around the horn: Prior to Thursday's contest, the White Sox officially returned Mike MacDougal from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte and reinstated the reliever from the 15-day disabled list. Haeger was sent down following Wednesday's loss and the knuckleballer's ejection. "It is what it is," said Haeger of the reassignment. "I'll go to Charlotte and keep working." ... Bobby Jenks entered Thursday having retired 24 straight batters, ... Guillen plans to play Danny Richar exclusively at second base, but will give Andy Gonzalez a few starts at shortstop during the final two months of the 2007 season. ... The White Sox bullpen has given up nine earned runs and seven home runs in this series against the Yankees.
Down on the farm: Three Class A Winston-Salem hurlers combined to throw no-hit ball over eight innings, but the Warthogs still suffered a 6-4 loss to Salem in 10 innings on Wednesday night. Kyle McCulloch started the game and yielded just one walk over six innings ... Nick Masset fanned six during his four-inning start, as Charlotte dropped a 2-1 decision to Toledo. Masset allowed four hits and one run. ... Chris Carter knocked out five hits and John Shelby launched his seventh home run in Class A Kannapolis' doubleheader sweep of Delmarva. Carter has reached base safely in 10 straight games, posting a .471 batting average and 11 RBIs during that stretch.
On deck: After missing the Yankees series to be with his wife and newborn son in Missouri, Mark Buehrle (8-6, 3.06 ERA) returns to the mound to open a weekend series at Comerica Park on Friday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Buehrle is 0-1 with a 9.95 ERA against the Tigers in 2007, and he matched a career high by allowing 14 his during a home loss on July 23.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.