A year ago, Contreras started the regular season 9-0 with a 3.38 ERA and made the American League All-Star team, but back problems took their toll, and Contreras went 4-9 with a 5.40 ERA after the break. Contreras' nine losses tied him with Tampa Bay's Tim Corcoran for the most in the second half in the AL last year.
The 35-year-old missed his final start of the season because of a hamstring strain and finished 13-9 with a 4.27 ERA.
"I had the back pain in the second half of the year, and it was because of the angle of my hip and the angle of my arm and how I was releasing and because of that back pain -- that's why I had the second half that I had," Contreras said. "In the offseason, I did a lot [of work], most importantly to strengthen my back. At this point, my back feels great, and I think I'm ready."
Against the Angels, Contreras threw a split-finger fastball that was dropping, and his breaking stuff was crisp -- not the easiest thing to accomplish the dry desert air.
News and features:
Spring Training info:
Guillen on deciding pitching staff: 350K
Sox coach Cooper on staff: 350K
Nick Masset on making White Sox: 350K
White Sox trainer explains a torn labrum: 350K
Guillen on Hall injury: 350K
Erstad on facing Angels: 350K
"For the first time in a long time here in Arizona [Contreras' breaking ball], was working real well," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "The last two outings, he's thrown the ball good. He's pitching better, he's feeling better -- it's all about timing. I think the last two outings, he's been real good."
Contreras also displayed control of his fastball, which wasn't always the case at the tail end of last season, when he was trying to pitch through pain. He will get two more starts before making his first Opening Day start on April 2 against Cleveland.
"Truthfully, I was surprised that I was chosen to be the Opening Day pitcher," Contreras said. "There are so many quality arms on the staff -- [Mark] Buehrle, [Jon] Garland -- there's so much talent on this staff, I was surprised, but I'm honored."
Honored, and apparently ready to go.
"Mentally, physically and especially technically, I feel as good as I'm going to feel, and I feel good," Contreras said. "At this point, I have two more outings, and I feel good [about] my progress."