Coming off DL, Yanks righty K's five


NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Yankees have found their fifth
starter, although Jose Contreras looked more like an ace.

Contreras made a rousing return from the disabled list, shutting
down the Baltimore Orioles on three hits over seven innings in New
York's 7-0 win Sunday.

"I'm happy because I was able to help the team achieve victory
and also demonstrate what kind of pitcher I am," Contreras said
through a translator. "I was able to pitch comfortably with the
great lead that my teammates gave me."

Jorge Posada hit a three-run homer in the first and Derek Jeter
added a two-run single for the Yankees, who cruised to an easy win
after dropping the first two of a four-game series.

Out since June 7 with a strained right shoulder, Contreras
replaced a struggling Jeff Weaver in the starting rotation and
picked up right where he left off before he was hurt.

After struggling as a reliever early this season, Contreras
moved into the rotation in late May with impressive results. He won
twice in two starts, at Detroit and Cincinnati, and now is 3-0 with
a 0.86 ERA as a big league starter -- with 17 strikeouts in 21

"When you get around him he just has a feel and a lot more self
confidence than he had before," Yankees pitching coach Mel
Stottlemyre said.

"Certainly this game should give him a big, emotional lift as
far as what he can do for us. You have to be excited about what
this guy can do not just down the stretch in the regular season but
maybe more than that. I don't think this is a guy that's going to
melt under pressure."

Contreras, who signed a $27 million, three-year contract with
the Yankees after defecting from Cuba last year, walked one and
struck out five. The performance left Weaver's role in limbo and
little doubt about who manager Joe Torre will turn to down the
stretch in addition to starters Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy
Pettitte and David Wells.

In fact, Weaver was warming up in the bullpen in the eighth.

"We're going to make some decisions here in the next few days,
now that we're getting close to Sept. 1," Torre said.

Making his first start at Yankee Stadium, Contreras (4-1) struck
out four of his first seven batters. He got some defensive help in
the first inning from right fielder Juan Rivera, who made an
outstanding throw to get Luis Matos at the plate on Jeff Conine's
two-out single.

The right-hander kept the Orioles reaching for pitches down in
the strike zone and made Jay Gibbons look bad in the seventh,
striking him out with an off-speed pitch.

"He was locating his fastball and he had a pretty good split
going," Gibbons said. "The first time around is kind of tough
when you haven't seen a guy. But regardless, he had pretty good

Contreras set down his last nine batters. Antonio Osuna worked a
perfect eighth, and Chris Hammond finished the four-hitter for New
York's 10th shutout of the season.

Contreras said he would call his father and the rest of his
family in Cuba to tell them about his big outing.

"He's going to be very happy. They'll all be very happy," he

Baltimore, which had won four straight following a season-high
eight-game losing streak, has been blanked nine times this year.

Alfonso Soriano led off the first inning with a double, and
Jason Giambi was hit by a pitch one out later. With two outs,
Posada connected off rookie Eric DuBose (1-4) for his 24th homer
and second in two days.

Jeter looped a two-run single to right with two outs in the
second, making it 5-0. Bernie Williams and Posada singled to start
the third, and Aaron Boone and Rivera added RBI grounders.

Making his fourth big league start, DuBose gave up seven runs --
six earned -- and six hits in just 2 1-3 innings.

"I was out there just scuffling from the very beginning,"
DuBose said. "When you face the Yankees you've got to be on top of
your game. I use it as a learning experience."

Game notes
Contreras struck out 15 and allowed two hits in seven
shutout innings in his last minor league rehabilitation outing Aug.
16 for Class A Staten Island. ... Boone made several nice plays at
third base. ... Jeter made his 12th error of the season in the
first inning. ... Contreras was charged with a walk in the third
inning when he put his hand to his mouth on the mound for ball four
to Brian Roberts. ... Posada has 24 hits in his last 53 at-bats
(.453). ... RHP Rick Bauer threw 3 2-3 hitless innings for
Baltimore in relief of DuBose, striking out five.