Jose Contreras on White Sox: ‘This team is ready to win the World Series'


GLENDALE, Ariz -- On an ordinary spring training morning at Camelback Ranch, White Sox players are milling around the clubhouse preparing for a pregame workout.

Standing quietly off to the side is a former World Series champion pitcher. He’s watching, listening, soaking everything in.

Jose Contreras observes the faces walking by, hears the words, and sees a familiar look in every players’ eyes.

What does it all remind him of?


“This team is ready to win the World Series. I’ve been here for two weeks.  I can see that,” Contreras said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

Quite a bold statement.  But then again, Contreras, now a special pitching instructor for the White Sox, remembers a similar proclamation Orlando Hernandez made on the first day of spring training in 2005--and even Contreras didn’t believe it.

“El Duque came into the clubhouse and he said, “This team is going to win the World Series this year’” Contreras recalled. “I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘Everything you need to win, the team has right here.’ At the same moment, I didn’t see that.’”

The next day, Contreras watched Hernandez speak with more of his teammates, telling them exactly the same thing, that the White Sox were going to win it all. 

Pretty soon everyone in the clubhouse believed it, months before “Don’t Stop Believin’” became the rallying cry for the 2005 White Sox.  

“It’s contagious,” Contreras said. “I remember at the beginning of the (2005) season, I talked with people who were my friends. I said, ‘This team is ready to win.’ Nobody believed it. The fans didn’t believe it. I said, ‘This is the year for the Chicago White Sox.’  People said, ‘Come on Jose.’ Then people starting believing.”

Skip ahead 15 years. Contreras notices the talent that’s been assembled here and watches how they're interacting with each other at spring training.

He keeps going back to 2005.

“I see the same energy. I see the same chemistry on this team.”

This wasn’t the case in his first two years as an instructor. Contreras says the White Sox coaching staff would talk to the team about winning during spring training. He could tell that the message wasn’t fully registering.

“They didn’t understand.  They didn’t believe it,” he said. 

He also noticed invisible barriers that existed inside the clubhouse.

“I remember the Cuban guys in one corner, the Dominican guys in this corner, the American boys in the other corner.  I said, this isn’t good,” Contreras explained.

But this spring, the walls have come tumbling down, the various cultures are blending as one.

“Yesterday, I saw Eloy Jimenez hold Dylan Cease (in a bear hug) for one minute. They were laughing and dancing,” Contreras said.

He saw American Nick Madrigal joking with Cuban Luis Robert.

“Two years ago, I told (Robert) you need to learn English.  It’s better for you, it’s better for your career. He said, ‘Come on, Jose. You were here for 20 years and you didn’t speak English.’ I told him, this is the reason you should learn English. It’s better for you on the field, in the clubhouse, and outside the field.’”  

Of course, talent goes a long way towards winning and losing. But ask those who have a World Series ring at home and they’ll tell you that individual players don’t win championships, teams that fight for one another do.

“You spend more time with your teammates than with your family,”  Contreras explained. “If you know about the guy next to you during the game, you go to the game to fight with the other team, to win the game.  You’ve got more energy, more urgency to beat the other team. If you know what the guy next to you thinks, it’s important.”

This is something Dallas Keuchel has clearly taken to heart. Contreras has been blown away by the commitment Keuchel has made—not just to learn about his new White Sox teammates, but to help make them better players, especially the pitchers.

“Sometimes you sign a big All-Star, and he’s not a good teammate.

This guy is unbelievable.  He’s a great pitcher, but he’s a better person,” Contreras said about Keuchel. “When he doesn’t throw a bullpen, he waits until everybody throws a bullpen, and watches them pitch.  He talks with everybody.”  

He’s noticed that Yasmani Grandal does the same thing with the catchers.

“This is the difference. Another reason I say, ‘Hey, watch out with this team this year,” Contreras said.  

Oh, and one more reason.

“Even the fans look different. They can feel the energy.”

But before we start talking about a possible White Sox World Series, they first need to make the playoffs, something they haven’t done since 2008 and deal with the clear favorites in the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins.

Contreras isn’t concerned.

“Everybody says Minnesota won 100 games. I don’t care about the Minnesota Twins. I care about this team. They’re hungry to win.”

Hungry enough for a trip to the World Series?

Contreras says believe it.  

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Contact Us