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Pirates sign Jose Contreras to minor league deal

The Pittsburgh Pirates have brought in veteran righty Jose Contreras to compete for a spot in their bullpen this spring.


The Pirates have signed veteran pitcher Jose Contreras to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, according to a tweet from the team. The 41-year-old Cuban righty has thrown just 23⅔ innings over the past two seasons thanks to injuries.

His 2012 season ended in June after he suffered a complete UCL tear. Prior to landing on the DL he had a 5.27 ERA in 13⅔ innings of work as a reliever for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Prior to his defection from Cuba, Contreras was one of the most coveted players on the international market. His first Major League contracted sparked a bidding war between the Red Sox and the Yankees, with New York winning out.

The battle over Contreras famously resulted in Red Sox president Larry Lucchino calling the Yankees "the Evil Empire" prior to the 2003 season, a nickname Yankees fans embraced enthusiastically.

Contreras never really managed to live up to that early hype, however, apart from his strong 2005 season. He went 69-62 in 175 starts with the Yankees, White Sox and Rockies and posted a 4.63 ERA.

The Phillies moved Contreras to the bullpen after signing him in 2010 and he was a solid late inning reliever for them that season, tossing 56⅔ innings with a 3.34 ERA and recording thirteen holds and four saves.

The Pirates will give Contreras a chance to prove that his elbow is healed and that he can be a useful part of their remade bullpen. Pittsburgh traded closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox earlier this off-season and received former Astros closer Mark Melancon in return.

Contreras will get a chance to join Melancon, Jason Grilli and promising youngster Jared Hughes in a Bucs bullpen that has some interesting talent for the late innings, but a need for depth.

A healthy Contreras could give them that extra depth in 2013.