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Latest early exit from Contreras costly

Latest early exit from Contreras costly

CHICAGO -- The booing from White Sox fans began to cascade down from the stands following Omar Vizquel's two-out double in the fourth inning of Friday's 6-0 Rangers victory.

Truth be told, the 21,326 in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field weren't exactly thrilled with Jose Contreras prior to this run-scoring hit.

Contreras (0-5) lost for the fifth time in six starts this season and slipped to 1-8 over his last 14 trips to the mound, dating back to last June 10. He allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits over 3 2/3 innings, while throwing just 47 of his 81 pitches for strikes.

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But that subpar pitching line was not the worst news of the night for the affable right-hander. After the fifth loss in six games for the White Sox (13-15), manager Ozzie Guillen announced that a new pitcher would take Contreras' turn for his next start, on Wednesday afternoon in Cleveland.

As of Friday night, Guillen was sure of neither the next stop for the struggling Contreras nor the pitcher who would replace him. The news was delivered by Guillen to Contreras during a postgame meeting in the manager's office.

"He feels bad," said Guillen of Contreras, who struck out three and walked two in defeat. "He's disappointed like everyone else."

"It's expected -- it's logical," said Contreras, through interpreter and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez of his demotion from the rotation. "They have to do what they have to do to put our team in position to win."

Friday's game started on an ominous tone, as Ian Kinsler drew a walk off Contreras, swiped second base and scored on Vizquel's single. A double-play grounder off the bat of Marlon Byrd avoided any further damage for Contreras.

Texas (16-13) scored two more in the second, with the help of a Josh Fields throwing error. The Rangers finished off Contreras with two more runs in the fourth, culminating with Vizquel's drive that brought home Taylor Teagarden and caused the White Sox faithful to make their dissatisfaction known.

Jeers from the crowd also could have been directed at the White Sox offense, which managed just four hits off Texas southpaw Matt Harrison (3-2), who threw his second career shutout and extended his scoreless-innings streak against the South Siders to 14, and 19 overall. The team's most sustained rally came in the sixth inning, when Harrison walked Jayson Nix to open the frame and Chris Getz singled one out later.

That challenge ended when Fields grounded into a double play on a hard-hit ball to Vizquel, who had moved in-game from shortstop to third base to replace Michael Young. Two runners reached base in the eighth with two outs, but Getz was thrown out by Kinsler on a close play at first.

Friday's loss was the fifth time this season that the White Sox have been shut out -- the highest total in the Major Leagues. But catcher A.J. Pierzynski bristled at the suggestion that the offense did not perform -- again.

"There's no need to say again," said Pierzynski, who finished 0-for-3 as the White Sox managed just four singles. "The guy pitched good. I'm tired of people blaming the offense, and I'm tired of you guys saying this offense stinks. This offense is pretty darn good. It won the division last year. We have good hitters -- big league hitters. The bottom line is we didn't get any hits tonight."

D.J. Carrasco, Clayton Richard and Lance Broadway combined to yield just one run on five hits over 5 1/3 innings of relief, striking out eight. All three pitchers are in consideration to step in for Contreras.

If Richard gets the nod, Guillen pointed out that the White Sox will need to add another left-handed pitcher to the bullpen. Those deeper ramifications left Guillen in no hurry to reveal his selection.

"We are leaning toward a couple of guys," Guillen said. "But I don't know. I haven't met with [general manager] Kenny [Williams] yet. We have five days to figure out what we are going to do.

"Maybe we send Jose to the bullpen for a little while to clear his mind and let [pitching coach Don Cooper] work with him. The conversation I just had with [Contreras] was good. He doesn't have a problem with whatever we decide."

After Contreras battled back early from a ruptured left Achilles' tendon suffered last Aug. 9, the story was not supposed to play out like this for one of the most popular members of the White Sox roster. Contreras feels good, and according to all parties asked, his stuff is not an issue.

Regaining his location and a little bit of confidence will be the orders of the day once the next step is decided for Contreras.

"Jose is not happy with himself," Guillen said. "He feels really bad because he let the team down many times. It's not fair for the ballclub or fair for him to send him out there without any results. Now, we will try to figure out how to get him back on track."

"What's going to help me is to pitch," said Contreras, who had positive results from a brief move to the bullpen in 2007. "It's Ozzie's decision what the next step is, but I'll do whatever the team wants me to do to help us win."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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