Originally created 05/06/04

Yankees send down Contreras to improve mechanics



OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jose Contreras was optioned to Single-A Tampa by the New York Yankees on Wednesday, a day after the shortest outing of his career.

The Yankees want the right-hander to work on his mechanics under pitching guru Billy Connors, the Yankees' vice president of player personnel.

New York recalled right-hander Bret Prinz from Triple-A Columbus to fill Contreras' roster spot.

The 32-year-old Contreras allowed six earned runs and four hits in two-plus innings in New York's 10-8 win over Oakland on Tuesday night. He said he had trouble locating his fastball.

Manager Joe Torre isn't sure what's wrong with the pitcher, who went 7-2 last year in his first major league season but is 1-2 with a 9.47 ERA so far in 2004. Contreras may pitch in a practice game setting, but the club wants him to "relax" first.

"It'll be about a week, to work on mechanics," Torre said. "And hopefully not have to think about mechanics. I said all this to him and in a short period of time he'll come back up here and help us. We'll see how he comes through this Tampa thing. To me, his stuff is dynamite.

"He's disappointed, but he understands it's something he has to do. We have his full cooperation."

Torre spoke to general manager Brian Cashman several times Wednesday about the move before making it official.

The Cuban pitcher, whose family is stuck in his native country, remains a bit of a mystery to the Yankees, but one trait is particularly frustrating. Contreras' tendency to change his pattern of aggressiveness during the game worries Torre.

"Right now, he's done some things he's been able to get away with," Torre said. "Hopefully a week in Tampa will get him going. ... A lot of it depends how quickly he can do things and not have to think about doing things delivery wise."

Contreras said he knew there might be a move after another sub-par outing Tuesday. He said his lack of control stems from his shoulder flying open during his delivery.

"I'm disappointed in myself," he said. "After last night, I thought something might happen, because I haven't pitched well in five starts."

Prinz, 26, is 1-0 with one save and a 6.48 ERA in eight games with Columbus this season. He made two appearances for the Yankees last season and is 4-3 in the majors over parts of three seasons.

Also in Tampa is right-hander Orlando Hernandez, who had his Tuesday start pushed back as a precaution. "El Duque" left after just nine pitches in a rehab start Thursday.

He had rotator cuff surgery May 12 and isn't expected to be ready to pitch in the majors until late May or June.