During today’s Nationals workout, all the pitchers who threw a bullpen session Tuesday threw again, except for one. While the rest of his group fired their second bullpen, Chien-Ming Wang bounced between fielding stations.
The Nationals are scaling back Wang’s workload as he begins his first healthy spring training since 2009. Rather than throwing a 10-minute side session every other day, like the rest of the team, Wang will throw one day, then take two days off before throwing again; he’ll throw his second bullpen tomorrow.
Once exhibition games begin, Wang will throw a controlled, simulated game before facing another team. The Nationals want to manage Wang, who returned late last July after he missed two years following massive shoulder surgery to repair a torn capsule in his right (throwing) shoulder.
Wang’s differing schedule is not cause for alarm. Manager Davey Johnson told Wang at the outset of spring training to ramp up for the season at his own pace. He also said all of the Nationals starters would eventually move to a similar two-days-off, one-day-on throwing schedule.
“It’s not a big thing,” Johnson said.
Wang, projected to be the Nationals’ fifth starter, felt no soreness after his bullpen session Tuesday. “I felt normal,” he said. “No problems.” After a constant string of setbacks the past two springs, Wang can concentrate on improving his pitches, not simply surviving the workout.
“It’s nice to be kind of typical,” Wang said. “I can focus on the game.”
Wang has no minor league options remaining, he cannot be traded before late May because the Nationals signed him as a free agent and it would make no sense to use him in the bullpen, given the lengthy warm-up his shoulder requires the wake of his surgery.
But he is not necessarily a lock for the rotation. It would not be a stretch for the Nationals, if they believe John Lannan out-performs him this spring, to somehow place Wang on the disabled list to start the year. That’s an unlikely scenario, but it’s there.
One other Wang note: There are fewer Taiwanese reporters covering him this spring, and the reason resides in New York. Wang said Taiwanese-American New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is a bigger story in Taiwan at the moment than he is. He likes that and supports Lin, but he does not watch Knicks games – he’s not a basketball fan.