Of all the issues that could plague a player making his major league debut, confidence wasn’t one of them for Carlos Contreras.
The rookie right-hander pitched the ninth inning in Cincinnati’s 11-1 inter-league win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. Sure, he had a 10-run lead, but that didn’t tarnish the luster of Contreras’s performance. Facing the impressive middle of Toronto’s order, he got Edwin Encarnacion to pop up, Brett Lawrie to ground out and Colby Rasmus to strike out. All three players had hit home runs within the last 24 hours, including two three-run jobs by Encarnacion.
Big deal, said Contreras, who’d never pitched above Double-A before being called up by the Reds on Saturday to shore up a weary bullpen.
“I trust my stuff,” the 23-year-old Dominican said before Sunday’s game. “I never give much credit to the hitters because I trust my stuff. Having a big lead helped me trust my stuff. That was very awesome for me. I was very excited. My first strikeout in the big leagues was Colby Rasmus. He’s a pretty good hitter.”
Contreras’s composure impressed manager Bryan Price.
“He was terrific,” Price said. “I never had that experience, so I don’t know what it’s like. I know it was 11-1, but it was his major league debut before a capacity crowd against a team that had scored 14 runs the night before and the middle of their lineup and he handled it well.”
The 5-foot-11, 207-pound Contreras is in his seventh season in the Reds’ organization. He was strictly a reliever until last season, when all of his 26 appearances were starts. Back problems kept him on Double-A Pensacola’s disabled list from April 27 to June 2, and he was 2-1 with a 2.70 earned-run average in nine games, including three starts.
Track records: It wasn’t anything Billy Hamilton did that kept him out of Sunday’s lineup for the series finale against Toronto. It was more what Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick had already done against Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey, a knuckleball specialist.
“Ludwick is 2-for-6 and Schumaker is 3-for-8 against Dickey,” said Price, who celebrated his 52nd birthday on Sunday. “It’s nice to have someone with experience against the knuckleball. There is the residual effect. The way Billy plays, there is some wear-and-tear at 160 pounds, and he’ll be playing longer into the season than he’s ever player. A day off won’t hurt Billy.”
Hamilton was hitting .383 during a 10-game hitting streak after Saturday.
Schumaker was 0-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt while Ludwick was 2-for-4 with two strikeouts against Dickey in Cincinnati’s 4-3 win.
Hobbled: Second baseman Brandon Phillips left Sunday’s game with a bruised right heel. He lobbied to stay in the game, said Price, who chose the cautious approach.
Phillips, in his ninth season with Cincinnati, has 699 career RBIs with the Reds. He is trying to become the 12th player in franchise history to reach 700.
Sunday’s game was his 1,276th with the Reds, tying former second baseman Ron Oester – who’s due to be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in August – for 13th in franchise history. Ted Kluszewski is 12th with 1,339 games.
In the fold: The Reds announced Sunday morning that Stanford shortstop Alex Blandino, the team’s supplemental first-round pick and the 29th overall selection in the 2014 draft, had signed a contract. The team’s top pick, Virginia pitcher Nick Howard, still was pitching for the Cavaliers, who reached the College World Series finals.