Rodolfo Castro, Roansy Contreras, Oneil Cruz show Pirates’ promise

Will Aldrich

By Will Aldrich

CINCINNATI — As the final weeks of the Pirates’ rebuilding season tick off the schedule, their bright, young core of talent is starting to collectively shine through.

With a group of Dominican-born players — Roansy Contreras, Oneil Cruz and Rodolfo Castro — taking center stage, the Pirates finished off their first four-game sweep of the Reds since July 1991 with a 10-4 victory at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday afternoon.

For each of the three, their campaigns haven’t been played out without a fair share of highs and lows, demotions back to the Minors and frustrating stretches, but recent results have offered a glimpse into what the future could hold.

“It’s really cool. I think [it’s cool] any time that we get a group of players that have played together, not only at Indianapolis, but in Altoona, and then you start to see them come [up to the Majors],” manager Derek Shelton said. “There’s a little competition amongst the three of them, and I think they kind of feed off of that.”

Contreras, a 22-year-old native of Peralvilla who started on the mound in the victory, was largely in control throughout his four-inning outing, striking out three and allowing just three hits without a walk. The right-hander flashed some of the best stuff he’s had all season, with an increased spin rate on both of his primary pitches: his four-seamer and slider – the latter of which he got Reds hitters to whiff on 54 percent of the time.

Contreras sat at just 55 pitches (36 strikes) after the fourth, but Shelton made the move to the bullpen. Recognizing the righty’s importance in their future plans, the skipper pulled him in an effort to conserve his innings.

“It’s just like we talked about earlier in the year with monitoring his volume,” Shelton said. “We want him to finish the year in the rotation, we want him to finish the year starting games, and because of that, there’s going to be some times that he gets shortened up.”

Contreras has been one of the most effective rookie starting pitchers in the Majors, sitting in a tie for fourth place in ERA. That puts him ahead of Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo, who he faced off against on Wednesday.

Contreras understood the decision, despite looking like he had the chance to pitch deep into the game.

“I believe that at the end of the day, it’s going to give me a lot more longevity and is going to take care of me for the future,” Contreras said.

After returning in mid-August from a surprise demotion, Contreras has been the club’s most reliable starting pitcher. He has posted a 2.43 ERA in his past six starts, allowing just nine runs in 33 1/3 innings. He has also allowed only one home run during that stretch. Not only that, but he’s done so against quality competition in the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Phillies and Braves – four teams with World Series aspirations.

Castro, a 23-year-old native of Los Llanos, gave Contreras run support in the third inning with a three-run homer off Lodolo, part of a four-RBI day at the plate. Oneil Cruz, also 23 but from Nizao, then launched a home run of his own to the opposite field in the eighth, putting the game on ice.

Both sluggers are in the midst of one of the best stretches of their respective seasons. Castro is slashing .267/.313/.633 over the past seven games with three home runs and eight RBIs, while Cruz is slashing .302/.343/.651 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 15 games.

“We’ve worked so hard,” Castro said through his interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “To be able to cherish it now and enjoy it, it’s beautiful. I think the mindset is to continue working hard and continuing to enjoy this later.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Next Post

'The Sporting News 7' podcast: Talking NFL opener, Frances Tiafoe, Liverpool embarrassment and more

The Sporting News

Subscribe US Now