CINCINNATI — This is one of those baseball feel good stories that pop up in the clubhouse when least expected, sort of like the old Candid Camera.
He goes by C.C., but he isn’t left handed and he is about half the size of C.C. Sabathia.
But this C.C. — Carlos Contreras — is a pitcher, a pitcher who made his major-league debut Saturday night for the Cincinnati Reds against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The night before he was wearing a Pensacola Blue Wahoos uniform in the Double-A Southern League, enjoying life in the minor leagues, trying to work his way up the ladder. Hey, maybe if he did well this season he might get promoted to the Triple-A Louisville Bats.
So Contreras, a 23-year-old right hander from the Dominican Republic, was relaxing, "Laying down in my room just chilling," when he received a call from Pensacola manager Delino DeShields.
"C.C., you gotta go to Cincinnati tomorrow," said DeShields.
"I’m not kidding you, you are going to Cincinnati tomorrow," said DeShields.
"Oh my gosh," said Contreras.
So he packed his bags, winged his way to Cincinnati and was sitting in the bullpen for his first major league game in the ninth inning Saturday night when the phone rang and C.C. was told to warm up.
Mike Leake had pitched eight gorgeous innings and the Reds led, 11-1, over the Toronto Blue Jays when C.C. made his debut, a perfect scenario to break in a first-timer.
And he did it with perfection — a 1-2-3 inning and he struck out Colby Rasmus to end the game. Rasmus had homered off Leake earlier in the game, Toronto’s only run.
"To me it was very good," he said. "I trust my stuff. I just try to make quality pitches to the hitters."
I never give much credit to the hitters because I trust my stuff.
-- Carlos Contreras
And it became clear he is bubbling with confidence beyond his years when he said, "I never give much credit to the hitters because I trust my stuff. With the 11-1 lead I knew all I had to do was throw strikes. If you throw strikes everything good is going to happen.
"That was awesome, that was perfect," he said. "My first game, the ninth inning, just what I like to do. And the strikeout (of Rasmus) — oh my god. My first strikeout in the big leagues was Colby Rasmus, a very good hitter. That was very good for me."
Contreras was standing in front of his locker and turned to point to a baseball on a shelf and said, "That’s the strikeout ball. (Catcher) Devin Mesoraco gave it to me."
Contreras spent six years in the minors, bouncing between a starter and the bullpen as he tried to make his way to Great American Ball Park.
The organization has been trying to find his slot in the baseball world. After signing in 2008 he worked out of the bullpen. In 2009 he was a starter. It was back to the bullpen in 2011 in Billings. He became a closer at Single-A Dayton in 2012, recording 16 saves.
Suddenly, in 2013, he was back as a starter, going 8-and-9 in a combined 26 starts at Bakersfield and Pensacola.
Some thought instead of C.C. as a nickname he should be called Jack-In-The-Box.
He began this season in the Pensacola rotation, then they decided to make him a closer a month or so ago, "And that is what I like to do. I like closing."
That’s why it was such a surprise to C.C. that he was summoned to The Show. For the Reds, it was an emergency call because of an injury to Sean Marshall and the recent ineffectiveness of a recently battered and heavily worked bullpen. C.C. was the second relief pitcher in two days promoted from the minors. Jumbo Diaz was called up from Louisville on Friday. Both C.C. and Jumbo were closers, but with Aroldis Chapman manning that chore, both C.C. and Jumbo will fill in the cracks, patch up what’s need in the fractured bullpen.
Manager Bryan Price liked the one inning he saw of Contreras.
"He seems to be very mature for a young, inexperienced pitcher coming up from Double-A," said Price. "I was thinking about it as he was coming into the the game Saturday, what it must have been like to be in Double-A the day before with absolutely no idea that the manager was going to call him in and say, ‘Pack your bags, you’re going to the big leagues.’
"There are the moments for a manager or a coach that makes the job even more worthwhile," Price added. "You get to witness these moments. You see Jumbo Diaz at 30 get his first call to the big leagues. And now Carlos. It’s fun to be part of that."