Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
NO CONTEST Although it's seemed
2003-03-10 07:42
by Alex Belth


Although it's seemed clear for a while now that Jeff Weaver will earn a spot in the starting rotation over Jose Contreras, Contreras' third poor outing helped solidify the feeling that the big Cuban will start the season in Triple A or the bullpen.

Joe Torre, who all but promised Weaver a starting role at the end of last year, doesn't need convincing.

"He didn't have to make a case for me, everbody knows that," Torre said. "I like what I see, obviously."

Contreras relieved starter Jeff Weaver yesterday and gave up 7 runs on 7 hits in 3 innings of work against the Devil Rays. But another poor performance is the least of the Jose's problems:

There is so much going on inside Jose Contreras' head. His 80-year-old father, Florentino, who was recovering from surgery on an intestinal blockage, had a stroke Saturday and is in intensive care in a Havana hospital.

His wife and two daughters are in Cuba, too, and Contreras, who has rarely been apart from his wife since they married as teenagers 15 years ago, doesn't know if he'll ever see them again.

..."I think I pitched 10 years of Triple-A in Cuba," Contreras said through a translator. "The level of Cuba is equivalent to Triple-A. Just because I struggled and have had a few bad outings, doesn't mean I'm not ready for this.

"The last few outings, you haven't seen the pitcher I am," Contreras added. "Once I get out of this rut in the near future, you'll see."

Meanwhile, Weaver allowed 1 run on 5 hits in 4 innings of work. Not only does Weaver have the support of his manager, Joe Torre, but GM Brian Cashman is a big fan too. And rightfully so. The deal that brought Weaver to New York was all Cashman.

According to Tyler Kepner in an article that appeared in the Sunday Times:

Weaver is here because of Cashman. It may be no coincidence, then, that the right-handed Weaver sometimes seems to be a spare part on the Yankees' staff. His stuff is electric but his profile is low. He is not here because the owner demanded it.

... "We didn't have a need for him, but I was like, `This is my opportunity; I have to take advantage of it,' " Cashman said. "A guy at this age, with this contract, everything that we believe he is, we have to somehow try to make this work."

Weaver learned of the trade at his hotel in Boston, when Dombrowski summoned him back to Fenway Park at midnight. When he got the news, Weaver cried. But talking to Cashman that night took away some of the sting.

"He was straightforward and straight up," Weaver said. "He told me: `I don't know exactly what's going to happen. We have a few extras in there, but the rotation is getting up in age, and who knows how long they'll be able to go? We want you to be here for the future, to make the transition a continuous one.' "

..."I can't profess to know him well," Cashman said. "I can't tell you we're friends. But I like him. I like everything about him. I get excited when he's on that mound."

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