Altoona Curve pitcher Roansy Contreras was sensational over his first three Double-A starts, drawing all kinds of attention from Pirates fans, some of whom had even started wondering when the young pitcher might get promoted to Triple-A.
But minor league baseball has a way of handling those sorts of things naturally. It’s the whole reason the minors exist — to put young players through all sorts of ups and downs and make sure they’re ready for the adversity that eventually will come in the big leagues.
Contreras went through his first bit of adversity in Double-A as he struggled Tuesday night, giving up five runs over four innings and taking the loss against Erie in a 5-1 defeat at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The evening created a good teaching moment, Curve manager Miguel Perez said, the kind that thousands of minor leagues have endured.
“I don’t wish it to happen,” Perez noted, “but that needs to happen because we need to get him ready for the big leagues.
“That’s part of the growth and the development for him.”
Contreras had been lights out entering Tuesday’s start. The 21-year-old right-hander had thrown 17 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 28 with only three walks, and posting a sizzling 0.566 WHIP.
Lots of eyes have been and will continue to be on Contreras, who came to the Pirates from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade in January. That type of high-profile trade always brings expectations for the minor leaguers in return, and Contreras has only increased expectations by wowing everyone with his fantastic start.
Still, he’s only 21 years old. There’s no rush.
Anybody thinking Contreras needs to be called up to Triple-A already needs to pump the brakes a bit and realize this is just what happens to almost every minor league pitcher.
Perez understands that all too well, having been a minor league catcher for many years and working with countless pitching prospects.
“I don’t want to say it was good for him to (struggle a bit), but it was good for us from a development aspect and a lot of teaching points to get him ready for the big leagues,” the manager said.
Contreras, who was not available to speak with the media after the game, had some issues with the fastball Tuesday and got hit hard by some good Erie hitters.
He struck out six, walked three and allowed four hits, including a two-run homer to Dane Myers in the second inning.
Perez said he had a talk with Contreras after the game and added that the youngster had some issues with pitch selection, recognizing what the hitters were trying to do and recognizing swings.
Again — all par for the course for a young minor league pitcher, no matter how good of a start he had this season.
“Mentally, he was good,” Perez said. “It was one of those games. It was one of those days. He was feeding them good pitches, and they were attacking the fastball.”
One key for any young prospect in Contreras’ situation is to understand all that’s going on around him and how he needs to shut out the noise while continuing his development.
He’s now playing 100 miles from Pittsburgh. Everyone knows his name. Scouts will be watching him closely. Pirates brass will be watching him closely.
Everybody will be watching him closely, which is all part of the territory when you’re involved in a trade for a big leaguer.
Perez doesn’t believe Contreras will have any problems with all that.
“He’s very humble,” Perez said. “I think he’s gonna be just fine. He’s a solid kid.”
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