SAN DIEGO - For four days, Jose Contreras waited. It had been since last June when the 40-year-old Cuban pitched in a major-league game. He rejoined the Phillies on this road trip but work was difficult to come by.
Finally, he was called upon in the seventh inning of Friday's game just after the Phillies had taken their first lead. He began his 10th season with four balls.
"Ideally, you'd like a better spot," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "But when push comes to shove, you have to get him in some games."
The results soon followed. He fell behind the next batter, Chris Denorfia, but threw a 91 m.p.h. fastball that was bounced to shortstop for a double play. Cameron Maybin then swung at the first pitch, a slider, and grounded out.
"You could see where Contreras was a little rusty," manager Charlie Manuel said. "When he missed the first couple hitters there, he missed pretty bad."
But 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."
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.