Jose Contreras ascended from minor leagues to face Chicago Cubs
For Contreras, however, this marks just another assignment after sharing the spotlight with the formidable Pedro Luis Lazo while pitching for Pinar Del Rio in their native Cuba.
"Industriales was the big team, the New York Yankees of Cuba," Contreras recalled of his time in Cuba through the 2002 season. "I know I'm pitching against the Cubs because I was moved in the rotation. But when I pitched against Industriales, it was because it was my day to pitch. The Industriales game always fell on my day to pitch.
"The Industriales players would say, 'Why us? Why are you moving him?' My manager would say, 'I'm not moving him. This is his day to pitch.' "
Contreras' last victory in 2008 was against the Cubs, when he pitched three-run ball over six innings June 27. He struggled after that and eventually was lost for the season when he ruptured his left Achilles tendon.
Contreras recovered about four months ahead of schedule, but his lack of command led to his volunteering to go to Charlotte so he could work on arm strength and command of his pitches.
He has responded by allowing three runs in 22 innings while resurrecting an effective split-finger fastball to complement his fastball.
"I'm at my happiest on the mound every five days," Contreras said. "[Taking] the mound against the Cubs makes me happy."