Chien-Ming Wang made what could be his final minor league rehab appearance today, pitching into the ninth inning and throwing roughly 90 pitches for Class AAA Syracuse. Having thrown at least seven innings at Class AAA in consecutive starts, Wang appears ready to join the Nationals after recovering from a torn hamstring he suffered in March.
The Nationals have not decided – or at least have not said – how they plan to fit Wang into their starting rotation, which leads the majors with a 2.31 ERA. It’s hard to imagine the Nationals would send fifth starter Ross Detwiler to the bullpen after posting a 2.10 ERA through his first six starts. It’s also hard to ignore that the Nationals lined up Wang to pitch on Detwiler’s day to start.
During spring training, the Nationals considered Wang one of their best three starters. Monday, despite allowing four earned runs on 11 hits, a walk and a hit batter, he recaptured that form. Wang produced a bushel of groundballs, inducing 14 groundouts and three double-play grounders. He struck out one and threw his sinker mostly in the 88-mph range.
Against Rochester, the Twins’ Class AAA affiliate, Wang allowed two extra-base hits, including one to the final batter he faced in the ninth. Six of the hits he allowed were either grounders that snuck through the infield or flares to shallow left. He consistently jammed hitters with his sinker and had them swinging over his breaking ball, which many believe is better now than during his peak with the Yankees.
Stamina certainly does not seem to be an issue for Wang, who last July returned to the majors after missing more than two years because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He kept a miniscule pitch count and came out for the ninth inning. Wang allowed hits to both batters he faced in the ninth, but he still his sinker in the high-80s. Both runners scored, which made his final line uglier than it could have been.