Contreras is activated, set for late duty

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Jose Contreras was every bit the newcomer Friday, trying to find the right size hat and speaking to several media members before the game.

For Contreras, 41, this most recent introduction was the latest of several in his career.

The Pirates added Contreras, a right-handed reliever, to the active roster before a game Friday against the Washington Nationals. They optioned right-hander Jared Hughes to Class AAA Indianapolis to make room.

Scouting report

  • Game:

    Washington Nationals vs. Pirates, 4:05 p.m., PNC Park.

  • TV, Radio:

    WPGH, KDKA-FM (93.7).

  • Probable starters:

    RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-4, 3.13 ERA) vs. LHP Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.83).

  • Key matchup:

    Locke, who has not allowed a run in his past two starts, against an unfamiliar Nationals lineup.

  • Hidden stat:

    The Nationals have lost the past five games Strasburg has started.

Contreras, who signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent Feb. 23, took the spot on the 40-man roster vacated when the Pirates designated Jonathan Sanchez for assignment. Contreras spent the spring finishing his rehabilitation from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in June.

"I thought it was going to be the end of my career," Contreras said with bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade translating. "The doctors told me that I could do it because I was in shape."

Contreras said he worked with New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek, who performed the surgery, and stayed in the hospital in the early stages of his rehabilitation. He was initially told the recovery would take 12-14 months and was pleased that he returned after 101/2 months.

"The rehab went pretty good," he said. "I feel good. The most important thing is that my arm responded the way that I expected."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he would use Contreras for one-inning appearances in the later innings of games.

"The velocity's there. The sink's there," Hurdle said. "He has a weapon in the split-finger fastball that's pretty unique."

Contreras appeared in six games on his rehabilitation assignment and allowed three runs in seven innings.

"I'm going to be ready from the first inning to the ninth inning," Contreras said. "No matter what they need me to do, I will. I'm a winner. That's why I'm still playing."

Contreras allowed eight earned runs in 132/3 innings for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012 before having elbow surgery June 20. An arm injury and eventual surgery also interrupted his 2011 season in Philadelphia.

Hughes allowed seven runs and nine walks in 132/3 innings this season. Hurdle said Hughes needed to re-discover his two-seam fastball and pitch in a lower-stress environment.

"He can go out there and throw pitches and not worry so much about the consequences," Hurdle said. "They're still there but not with the degree of severity that they are here."

Walker to DL

The Pirates put Neil Walker on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of a cut on his right hand and activated infielder Jordy Mercer from Class AAA Indianapolis.

St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma stepped on Walker's right hand April 26 as Walker tried to break up a double play. The cut, on Walker's right index finger, required six stitches.

Because Walker had not played since Friday, the Pirates made the move retroactive to April 27. Walker is eligible to come off the disabled list May 12.

Mercer, 26, hit .333 with a .404 on-base percentage and six doubles in 26 games with Indianapolis this season. He drew 12 walks compared to 17 strikeouts.

Mercer made his major league debut in 2012 and had a .636 on-base plus slugging percentage in 68 plate appearances in 42 games.

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Bill Brink: and Twitter @BrinkPG.


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