Cuban connection picking up slack

When the Phillies signed hurlers Danys Baez and Jose Contreras in the offseason, they had no idea how integral the Cuban expatriates would be a month into the season.

With Ryan Madson on the DL with a broken toe, and J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge trying to return to form, Baez and Contreras have been counted on to pick up the slack.

“Jose and I are going to do whatever we have to do to help the team win,” Baez said. “With Ryan out we’re going to have to cover for him. Jose and I can play whatever role the team needs.”

The Phillies’ Cuban connection each grew up in the scenic Cuban province of Pinar Del Rio and played for the Cuban National team. Baez defected to the U.S. in 1999, while Contreras waited four years.

“We’ve always been good friends, but we’ve played for different teams here (in the U.S.) until now. We were both thrilled to go to the Phillies,” said Baez.

Contreras concurs with his lockermate.

“It’s helped me having Danys here,” Contreras said via Baez, who translated from Spanish. “It’s made things easier with what I’m doing in the bullpen. I was okay with it when I started there with the Colorado Rockies at the end of last season. But it’s still a [transition].”

Phils manager Charlie Manuel believes in both his new additions.

“They’re both tremendous relievers,” Manuel said. “They each have good stuff and a great out pitch. They’re big additions to our bullpen.”

Baez and Contreras don’t intend to let their new skipper down.

“With this team you expect to win every time you step on the field,” Baez said. “Jose and I aren’t going to let the team down when they need us most.”

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