As Chien-Ming Wang has returned this summer from a devastating shoulder injury, durability and consistency have not been issues. Wang has thrown at least 5 2/3 innings in six consecutive starts after this afternoon’s 7-4 Nationals loss to the Dodgers. He threw an efficient 80 pitches in six innings, and Manager Davey Johnson thought he could have thrown more.
Wang’s biggest issue in his return, then, has not been what happens at the end of starts. It’s what happens at the beginning. He cannot warm up as easily as he once did, and it has led to slow starts.
Early in starts, Wang has not been able to command his sinker and throw it with as much movement as later in his outings. Three of the first four Dodgers hitters this afternoon tattooed line drives. With one out in the third inning, Wang had allowed six hits and four runs.
But then Wang stopped his leaving his sinker high in the strike zone and settled down, retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. Eight of those 10 outs came on groundouts or fly balls.
The slow starts and strong finishes becoming a trend. In the first and second inning this year, Wang has a 7.86 ERA. Once he gets past the openings two frames, Wang has a 2.60 ERA.
Wang has returned from a torn shoulder capsule and subsequent surgery that held him out of the major leagues for more than two years. Before his injury, when he became one of the league’s best pitchers with the New York Yankees, he threw about 40 pitches in the bullpen. This season, Wang has thrown 50 or 60 before the game.
“I’m going to try to get the warm-up done and put myself in game situations earlier,” Wang said through an interpreter. “Hopefully, I can do better.”