Cuban-born Jose Contreras speaks very little English, but all of his new teammates could understand the pitcher's natural anxiety before his White Sox debut.
"I am sure he had some butterflies. We had some butterflies for him," said catcher Ben Davis, who watched his batterymate toss six strong innings in a 12-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
The Sox slugged four home runs, including a grand slam by Paul Konerko in a 5-run fifth inning. Aaron Rowand, Joe Crede and Jose Valentin also went deep. It was the 18th time this season the Sox have scored 10 or more runstops in the majors.
But the focus was on the 32-year-old Contreras, acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees last weekend for All-Star Esteban Loaiza. Contreras improved his record to 9-5.
Contreras, who threw 57 strikes among his 93 pitches, said he felt comfortable on the mound.
"All of my pitches were fine. From the beginning of the game I felt comfortable. Everything was workingmy fastball and my split-finger, as well as my changeup and slider," Contreras said through interpreter Ozzie Guillen Jr. "I'm happy everything was going so well in my first game and I am happy to be in Chicago. My teammates put up some runs for me and made it a little bit easier."
Contreras allowed four runs (two earned) on five hits. He struck out three and walked one.
"Even though my teammates gave me a lot of run support, I just went out there and pitched my game. I just left my ball high (in the Royals' 4-run fifth inning)," he said.
Contreras said he is pleased he is no longer under the intense scrutiny in New York.
"Even though there was the expectation to win every game there in New York, I didn't care when I was there," he said. "I was a little bit shy when I got here. My teammates have treated me great and now I am a little bit looser.
"I accepted the trade because I knew they wanted me out of New York. If I am in your house and you don't want me there, I will leave. So I had to accept the trade."
Contreras faced the Royals for the first time in his career and he retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced.
"We have a scouting report and you try to stick to the scouting report as much as possible," Davis said.
"But I think there is also a feel. When I am back behind the plate, they might say, 'Don't throw a fastball away from the plate on this guy.' But sometimes you know that a hitter is pulling away from the ball and is not able to get to that outside pitch. So you have to use your intuition out there and your feel for the game."
Crede, a native of nearby Westphalia, Mo., hit his 14th home run of the season in the third inning off Royals starter Mike Wood to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Crede snapped an 0-for-11 skid with the drive over the left-field fence.
Willie Harris (3-for-3 with a walk) followed with a single up the middle before Timo Perez delivered a two-out RBI double to left to make the score 2-0.
Davis opened the fifth inning with an opposite-field double into the left-field corner. Crede sacrificed Davis to third before Harris tripled off the right-center field wall to drive in Davis.
Perez walked and Carlos Lee was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Konerko cleared the bases with a grand slam to make it 7-0. It was the first White Sox grand slam of the season.
The Royals finally got to Contreras in the fifth inning when Ken Harvey opened with his 13th homer of the season to make it 7-1.
Crede botched a ball hit by John Buck to keep the inning alive before rookie Ruben Gotay hit a soft RBI single. David DeJesus singled in another run before Joe Randa added a sacrifice fly to make it 7-4.
Rowand's three-run homer in the sixth inning broke the game open, 10-4. Valentin added his 23rd homer of the season in the ninth inning.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times