It has not been an easy season for Nationals right-handed pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, who was throwing well in spring training and all set to make the team as the No. 5 starter. Then he fell and injured his left hamstring on an awkward play near first base during a March 15 exhibition game against the New York Yankees and nothing was ever the same.
Wang returned for a May 25 start, but lasted just five total before being banished to the bullpen. Eventually, a hip injury began hampering his mechanics and his stuff wasn’t what the organization had seen the previous September when Wang had fought back from two years out of the game with a serious right shoulder injury.
After spending 10 weeks rehabbing the hip injury and working on his mechanics, Wang gets another chance this Sunday when he will make a spot start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Washington manager Davey Johnson could have gone with reliever Craig Stammen, a former starter who can pitch four or five innings if needed. But Johnson likes how Stammen has taken to his middle relief role and starting him Sunday would take him out of the bullpen for two days before a start and maybe two days afterwards.
And Wang helped his cause with 2 1/3 innings against the Dodgers in relief of a struggling John Lannan on Wednesday. He gave up just two hits, wild pitched home one run and gave up another that shouldn’t have counted thanks to a blown umpire’s call. But it was the way he threw that caught Johnson’s attention.
“Chien-Ming, I like who he is, I like what he’s all about and I like his competitiveness,” Johnson said. “And he’s been in big games. And to me all these are big games. And I think he’ll do us a good job on Sunday.
Wang threw 32 pitches against nine Los Angeles batters. He induced five ground balls – always a good sign for him – and just three fly balls. He held his own against some strong left-handed hitters in the Dodgers’ lineup and Milwaukee, the opponent Sunday, has few lefties of note that could give Wang trouble. He even featured a nice curve ball to go with his sinking fastball. But don’t expect more than this one shot over the final 14 games unless Washington has clinched a berth and needs an arm to set its rotation for the playoffs.
“I don’t need another starter. One outing is not gonna put [Wang] in my rotation,” Johnson said. “Although, Lannan he was all messed up, you know what I’m saying? He just couldn’t find the rhythm, the groove. And the other three starts he’s had have been really great. So I told Johnny don’t worry about it. Those things happen.”
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