Bucs' Contreras dominates in final Peoria start

November 17th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. – Outside of a forearm strain that kept him off the mound for more than two months and cost him a trip to the Futures Game, a lot went right for Pirates right-hander Roansy Contreras in 2021. In his first season with the organization after coming over in the January trade for Jameson Taillon, the Pirates’ No. 6 prospect used his improved stuff to go from Double-A to Triple-A and then made an electric three-inning big league debut at the end of September.

On Tuesday night, Contreras put an exclamation point on his breakthrough season. Making his final start of the Arizona Fall League season for the Peoria Javelinas against a Mesa Solar Sox lineup that included two Top 100 prospects and a favorite to be AFL MVP, Contreras went four strong innings. He allowed one unearned run on three hits, walking one and striking out eight as Peoria beat Mesa, 5-2.

“I was commanding my fastball and attacking the zone early in the count so I could get ahead of the hitter,” said Contreras, with Mariners infielder Jose Caballero serving as translator. “That was the biggest thing that was working for me.”

Contreras threw his fastball consistently in the 96- to 97-mph range throughout the outing, using his ability to throw his plus heater for strikes to set up his other pitches. And he didn’t waste any time doing it, freezing Cubs leadoff hitter Andy Weber on a breaking ball to start the game, then finishing the inning by blowing a 97-mph fastball by Marlins outfielder JJ Bleday (MLB 71), the Fall Stars MVP.

Even the inning in which he ran into trouble -- the second -- he struck out Nelson Velazquez (CHC 29), arguably the best hitter in the league this fall as well as Kameron Misner (MIA 22). He whiffed Blue Jays catching phenom Gabriel Moreno (MLB 32) in the third and struck out the side in the fourth (though he was aided by an automatic-strike strikeout of Velazquez). His final whiff came on a nasty breaking ball that set down Misner for the second time.

The only other mistake he made in the outing came in the fourth, though it didn’t cause too much damage. With one out and an 0-2 count on Spencer Horwitz (Blue Jays), Contreras shook off Logan O’Hoppe (PHI 11) and served up a pitch Horwitz lined into right-center for a base hit. Contreras, not afraid to show some passion on the mound, slapped his glove against his leg, then turned to his catcher and patted his chest to take ownership of the mistake.

“Logan was asking for the fastball and I didn’t want to throw the fastball,” Contreras said with a smile. “And then I hung a changeup and they got a base hit, so it was my fault. After that, I didn’t shake him off that much. Obviously, he was doing his job.”

While Mesa took an early 1-0 lead on that unearned run in the second, Peoria answered back in the top of the third. Contreras’ teammate Ji-Hwan Bae (PIT 22) singled Jesse Franklin V (ATL 17) to third, stole second and then scored on Phillies prospect Bryson Stott’s (MLB 97) two-run double down the right-field line. The Bae-Phillies prospect combination added two more runs in the fifth. Bae showed off his wheels with a triple to center, then trotted home on O’Hoppe's third AFL homer.

Simon Muzziotti (PHI 16) singled in a run in the sixth for Peoria and Logan Davidson (OAK 12) homered for Mesa to close out the scoring, but it was Contreras’ domination that took center stage, just like it did when he was healthy in 2021.

“I never stopped working hard after I had the forearm [injury],” Contreras said. “That’s what put me in this position so I could continue having a great year after the injury. That’s what brought me here so I could do excellent work here in the Fall League.

“This excellent year I had, I’ve been working since 2020. The COVID year was a tough year, but I continued working. It’s working for me, performance-wise. This whole year has been great, making it to the big leagues, having an exciting outing here in the Fall League.”