CINCINNATI — Pirates pitcher Roansy Contreras knew he had to put his most recent outing behind him.
After working just 1 2/3 innings last Friday against the Brewers, the 22-year-old wanted to reestablish that he has what it takes to be a consistent starting pitcher in the Majors nine starts into his first full season.
Pitching in the opener of a day-night doubleheader against the Reds on Thursday, Contreras did just that, rebounding with his strongest outing of the season. The righty tossed six innings of one-run ball while striking out seven to propel the Pirates to a 4-2 win at Great American Ball Park.
In the nightcap, the Pirates fell, 5-1, after the Reds’ four-run seventh inning proved too much to overcome.
Going right after a Reds offense that has struggled mightily with consistency this season, Contreras showed poise in his third win of the season.
“I really just have to give credit to some adjustments that I made during this week,” Contreras said through the Pirates’ team translator. “I’m very grateful that the results came through.”
Contreras, who was signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, was given a spot in a Pirates rotation that ranks in the Majors’ bottom five in ERA, WHIP and opponents’ batting average. He has had an opportunity to pitch through mixed results in his rookie campaign, and he is in line to be a key piece for Pittsburgh in the coming years.
“I think throughout this entire experience, the biggest thing that I’ve learned is how important it is to flush those bad outings,” Contreras said. “To be able to move on and continue to trust the process. There’s always going to be another new day and another day to get better.”
Contreras certainly turned the page, getting through six innings for the first time in his Major League career.
Contreras’ lone blemish was a Statcast-projected 408-foot home run by Reds designated hitter Donovan Solano in the fifth. Aside from that, he executed on his four-seam fastball and his offspeed pitches, including his devastating slider that got whiffs eight of the 15 times he threw it.
“Coming back today, I think the execution was definitely better,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “[He was] able to land the breaking balls and the changeup. He did a nice job. He gave up the homer, [but] he bounced back. Overall, solid outing. Nice to see him bounce back and give us a victory.”
Contreras’ biggest test with runners in scoring position came in the second inning, when he was able to buckle down and strike out center fielder Albert Almora Jr. to strand two.
Getting into pitcher-friendly counts the first time through the order is something that Shelton will continue to prioritize for Contreras.
“I think it comes down to execution of pitches,” Shelton said. “Just making sure that early in the game, he doesn’t get too fine. I think some of it comes from the fact that he gets ahead and gets back to even or behind, and then has to throw a strike. I think that’s still a big part of his development and something we have to continue to focus on.”
While Contreras has already gained the trust of batterymate Jason Delay — who caught him at Triple-A Indianapolis and tallied his first career hit and RBI in Game 1 — he wanted to make sure he set the record straight to the rest of the National League about what kind of pitcher he is.
“I’m pretty sure ever since that last outing, a lot of people probably were wondering or thinking to themselves, ‘Man, Roansy’s in a hole. He’s probably going to struggle getting out of there,’” Contreras said. “However, I’ve always been a competitor. I’ve always come out with a winning mindset. Always ready to compete, putting in hard work, a lot of commitment and dedication and always trusting in myself. The mindset is always coming back, flushing the last outing, coming back and giving everything that I have to try to help the team win.”