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11/15/10 7:45 PM EST

Phillies reach two-year deal with Contreras

One of manager Manuel's favorites, righty returns to bullpen

PHILADELPHIA -- The Big Truck will be back in 2011.

Jose Contreras on Monday signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Phillies that also includes a club option for 2013 and performance bonuses.

Contreras, who turns 39 next month, went 6-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 67 appearances this season -- his first full season as a reliever. He quickly became a favorite of manager Charlie Manuel, picking up three of his four saves in May when Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson were on the disabled list. He also averaged 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (57 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings).

Manuel affectionately nicknamed Contreras "Big Truck" for no other reason than Contreras drove a big truck during Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla.

"Jose was as consistent a reliever as we had last year," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "We were pleasantly surprised by his durability since it was his first full year in a relief role. Jose has fit in extremely well in our clubhouse, and he is a quality, back-end-of-the-bullpen pitcher who showed versatility in a variety of roles in 2010. We're pleased to have him on board for the next couple of years."

Contreras went 1-0 with four scoreless innings in the postseason, allowing just one hit and striking out four.

Assistant GM Scott Proefrock said that negotiations with Contreras went smoothly. Last year at this time, the Phillies wanted to re-sign Chan Ho Park, but negotiations went nowhere, and the Phillies ultimately signed Contreras and Danys Baez instead.

"There was a genuine interest on both parts to come to an agreement," Proefrock said. "Right from the start, we knew there was mutual interest, and it was pretty easy to act on it. We went back and forth quite a bit, but the lines of communication were always open, and we were able to work something that is hopefully in the best interests to both sides."

The only concern with Contreras would be his age.

"It was certainly talked about in the process, but he had a pretty good workload this year, and we didn't have any issues with his arm or anything else other than one bout with back spasms," Proefrock said. "He had an exit physical, and we're very comfortable with his health."

Amaro has said since the season ended that rebuilding the bullpen was a top priority. The Phillies had only Lidge, Madson and Baez signed next season, although they also had such youngsters as Antonio Bastardo, Scott Mathieson, David Herndon and Mike Zagurski returning. Contreras gives Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee another reliable veteran arm in the bullpen.

The Phillies now have six free agents and are interested in bringing back Jayson Werth and Chad Durbin. They have had discussions about Werth, although it is believed he will sign elsewhere. Durbin could be back depending on what kind of deals he finds. The other free agents -- J.C. Romero, Jamie Moyer, Mike Sweeney and Greg Dobbs -- are not expected to return.

"We have a lot of irons in the fire still," Proefrock said.

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