March 1, 2012; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Jose Contreras (52) during photo day at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Jose Contreras--Who Was Given 'Bronze Titan' Nickname By Fidel Castro

The pitcher, who Fidel Castro once nicknamed Jose Contreras the “Bronze Titan,” has been signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.   Yeh, he’s up there in age.  Yeh, we aren’t sure what the hell a Bronze Titan is, but it sounds cool.

Tonight, the Bucs tweeted that they had signed reliever Contreras to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. The team reported that the right hander will be in camp Sunday.

Contreras was a big-time star pitcher in his native Cuba and pitched on the Cuban team that won Olympic Gold.   Three times he was named the Cuban athlete of the year.

The man fled Cuba, his family and his friends to play professional baseball back in 2002. [A cool story about his defection is linked here.] A new rule allowed him to return home recently.   He spent some time in Cuba last month and then returned to the states to start getting himself back in shape according to the story.

He will rehab from elbow surgery as he attempts to get on the combeback trail in his Major League career. He suffered a torn UCL and flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow last June.  And in September of 2011 he also had flexor pronator surgery.

Since 41 is the new 31,  or wait…maybe after looking at that picture, 51 is the new 41?  Anyway, taking a gamble on Contreras is interesting considering Jason Grilli isn’t exactly wet behind the ears.

It doesn’t hurt to take a look I guess.  Maybe a scout knows something more than we do.

All we do know is Contreras got paid some decent cash despite putting up some ugly numbers for the Philadelphia Phillies in just 17 relief appearances last year.

Contreras went 1-0 with a 5.17 ERA, as he struckout fifteen and walked three in 13.2 innings for Philly last year.  During his past three years with the Phillies, he has posted a 3.74 ERA and averaged 9.1 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine.

When he signed with the  Yankees they were labeled the evil empire.  Contreras also pitched for the White Sox and Rockies over his ten seasons in the bigs, most of them as a starting pitcher.  He has won 78 career games in the big leagues to go with a 4.55 ERA.

It’s difficult to imagine much being left in the tank, but since we are pulling for the turn back the clock effect to improve Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Sanchez, hell what’s one more?   If Contreras doesn’t have an early opt out in his contract, the right hander could be available when the Buccos need him most.  Screw it, why not?

We can already envision the Bronze Titan costumes at PNC Park.

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