soft hands.

patience? what a novel idea

Theories abound as to why Contreras, 33, has succeeded in Chicago after failing in New York, but the most plausible explanation is patience. The Yankees couldn't wait for Contreras to figure it out. The White Sox, who haven't been to the Series since 1959, could and did. Contreras was 5-4 with a 5.30 ERA after the trade in 2004, and 4-5, 4.26 before the All-Star break this past season.

"Even when Jose was struggling, we kept sending him out there to get him over it," Guillen said. "And it was a long process, but it has paid real well."

Contreras walked too many batters, threw his forkball too often and tipped off his pitches, all issues the Yankees failed to correct. Still, he was 7-2 in '03, pitching effectively in middle relief during the postseason, and was 8-5 in '04.

The Cuban government refused to let Contreras' wife and children join him in the U.S., a problem resolved in June 2004. Soon after, Contreras was hit hard in successive starts by the Red Sox and Orioles and the Yankees deemed the family separation was not the problem. He was traded to the White Sox for Esteban Loaiza, who pitched even less effectively for the Yankees.

"My perception was that he was a great physical specimen, and what a worker," Cooper said. "He didn't have as much confidence in himself as he should, wasn't as aggressive as he should be, and we began a process - and it was a process - of getting him to believe in himself." [hartford courant


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