Contreras last pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies on June 1 last season. The right-hander left the game against the Miami Marlins after experiencing right elbow soreness, and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Contreras is returning from Tommy John 10 1/2 months after the surgery, even though the doctors told him the recovery would take 12-14 months.
The 41 year-old has only thrown 27.2 innings at the major league level since 2011. Contreras looked effective in 2012 before suffering the injury, striking out 15 batters in 12.2 innings while only walking three. The Cuban emigre is a former starter, starting 175 total games in his career, but has been used exclusively out of the bullpen since 2010.
Pittsburgh is demoting Hughes to Triple-A in hopes that the reliever can re-gain command of his sinker. Hughes had been used as the team's seventh-inning man this season, a role that Contreras will now occupy. The 27 year-old had struggled in his first 13.2 innings of the season, posting a 4.61 ERA and walking 5.93 batters per nine innings.
Hughes pitched more effectively out of the bullpen last season, as he compiled a 2.85 ERA in 75.2 innings of work. The sinker was key to Hughes' success, as the right-hander posted an impressive 59.6 percent groundball rate. It Hughes can recover the command on his sinker, he will likely find himself back in the team's bullpen later this season.