SAN DIEGO — For four days, Jose Contreras waited. It had been since last June when the 40-year-old Cuban last pitched in a major-league game. He rejoined the Phillies on this road trip but work is difficult to come by.
So he'd trot to the bullpen with Antonio Bastardo hours before games and throw with a towel. This was to improve his mechanics with a lack of action.
And finally, when he was called upon in the seventh inning Friday, he began his 10th season with four balls.
"You could see where Contreras was a little rusty," Charlie Manuel said. "When he missed the first couple hitters there, he missed pretty bad."
He fell behind the next batter, Chris Denorfia, but threw a 91 m.p.h. fastball that bounced to shortstop for a double play. Cameron Maybin swung at the first pitch, a slider, and grounded out.
Contreras, once nicknamed El Titan de Bronze by Fidel Castro, had made it back from elbow surgery.
"He needs work," Manuel said. "He needs to pitch. In order for Contreras to be good, you have to use him on a regular basis. He has to pitch two out of four days to keep him going. When he gets throwing real good he has to maintain that. He has to pitch to maintain his command and velocity."
Of course, a heavy workload is what sidelined Contreras originally. He pitched eight times in the team's first 18 games and five in the span of six games immediately before being injured. He returned briefly for nine games only to require September surgery.
But if right, he adds another late-inning option.