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Jose Contreras: How Will the Philadelphia Phillies Relief Pitcher Fit Into the Team’s Plans for the Future?

Entering this past offseason, Jose Contreras was the only relief pitcher the Philadelphia Phillies had signed for 2012.

Contreras was a surprise success for the Phillies in 2010, posting a 6-4 mark and 3.34 ERA in 67 games primarily as a seventh-inning reliever. He earned a two-year contract through ’12 with a team option for the ’13 season. The deal will pay Contreras $2.5 million for this season and $2.5 million for next year should the team renew his deal, with a $500K buyout.

Contreras struggled vastly with elbow problems last year and the injuries limited him to just 14 innings, although he did still post a 3.86 ERA and 8.4 K/9 rate. Contreras has been cleared to pitch off the mound, although time will tell how well his 40-year old elbow will hold up.

If Contreras is healthy for the season, he will give the Phillies a talented reliever with experience to pitch in the seventh or eighth innings. Jonathan Papelbon is a stud closer, Antonio Bastardo is one of the game’s top lefties, and Chad Qualls is another veteran that will be a solid option for the late innings.

Contreras can even close, as he went 4-for-4 in save opportunities during the ’10 season when called upon. He is a former All-Star starter with the Chicago White Sox, as well as a World Series champion. Despite his age, Contreras is only entering his 10th major league season, having pitched in Cuban ball for several years prior.

If Contreras stays healthy and pitches well in 2012, the team will almost assuredly renew his option for 2013. A $2.5 million deal isn’t too much to pay for a successful relief pitcher that can pitch in many different facets. Then again, the key to the season is for Contreras to stay healthy, and I have my doubts about his elbow holding up for six months straight.