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Contreras slowing ... losing control
Jose Contreras' final start of the first half of the season Wednesday night was nearly as rough as his start on Opening Day.
As a result, there will be plenty to ponder after Contreras suffered one of his worst outings in the White Sox's 9-6 loss to the Orioles.
Contreras' velocity has dipped to 90 m.p.h. in the last month, but his lack of control has become a growing concern. He needed 105 pitches just to get through five innings.
"He's all about strikes," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "When Jose gets ahead in the count, all of a sudden his forkball is working. When he gets behind in the count, then he has to use his fastball more and has to hit spots. He was off."
Among those who were attentive to Contreras' performance were representatives from San Diego, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Dodgers. They are among the teams looking to fortify their rosters before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
Contreras didn't help his trade value as he gave up six runs on eight hits and two walks. One of the passes was issued to Freddy Bynum, who hadn't drawn a walk in his first 38 at-bats covering 45 games.
Contreras (5-10) is 1-6 with a 6.84 ERA in his last eight starts. That doesn't include his Opening Day start against Cleveland in which he was tagged for eight runs on seven hits in one-plus inning.
Since last year's All-Star break, Contreras is 9-19 after winning a franchise-record 17 consecutive games with a 2.92 ERA in 24 starts
"I never wanted it to be like this," Contreras said. "I never lost 10 games, never been below .500 in my life, so I just have to keep working, and God bless I'm healthy."
Oddly enough, Contreras' biggest problems occurred in the third. He had allowed only three runs in the third innings in his previous outings, but the Orioles batted around en route to four runs that erased a 2-0 deficit.
Contreras struck out five, but two came after Jay Gibbons' two-run homer in the fifth.
"He doesn't want to be embarrassed out there," Guillen said. "Everyone is frustrated. He has had a lot of success with us and feels like he let the team down."
Contreras was hardly alone in his struggles, as the bullpen suffered another regression and the defense committed three errors.
Reliever David Aardsma was tagged for three runs in 1 2/3 innings and was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game.
Aardsma will get more work in the minors and vowed he would return to the Sox.
"It's getting that aggression back and throwing at a good angle," said Aardsma, whose ERA swelled to 6.40.
The Sox will make a corresponding move before Thursday's game. They could keep Nick Masset in the bullpen by recalling starter Gavin Floyd (7-3, 3.10) from Charlotte to pitch Friday's second game, but Guillen is hesitant to use a pitcher for one start and return him to the minors.
The offense, meanwhile, failed to capitalize on five walks in 4 1/3 innings against left-hander Garrett Olson, who was making his major-league debut. They had 10 base runners against Olson but stranded seven of them.
That loomed even larger when Rob Mackowiak ripped a three-run homer in the ninth off reliever Paul Shuey. Mackowiak's homer was his fourth of the season and his first since June 3 at Toronto.
Toby Hall started at catcher because Olson is left-handed, but A.J. Pierzynski was nursing a badly bruised right knee after fouling a pitch Tuesday.