After he watched Chien-Ming Wang throw a bullpen session this afternoon, Manager Davey Johnson raved about the injury-plagued right-hander’s pitches and said Wang could play a role on the Nationals’ staff as either a starter or a reliever.
Wang has not pitched for the Nationals since June 30. He has rehabbed a right hip strain, adding to his seemingly endless minor league rehab schedule. In his recent rehab stint, Wang posted a 9.68 ERA over four starts in Class AA Harrisburg. Still, Johnson gushed about Wang’s bullpen session today.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him since the spring,” Wang said. “He was outstanding. Great ‘pen. I was pleased with that. I hadn’t seen him in three or four months. I liked what I saw.”
Johnson was aware of Wang’s poor outings in the minors. He chalked them up to Wang trying to overthrow in an effort to prove himself healthy and able to contribute in the majors.
“If he was throwing like he threw today, they’d have been off the charts,” Johnson said. “I think a lot of it down there, he probably tried to overthrow, tried to do too much. When he started his ‘pen today, he was overthrowing everything.”
In the spring, Johnson believed Wang pitched well enough, with a cannonball sinker and a solid slider, that he would be the Nationals’ third starter. The plans were dashed when Wang tore his hamstring as he covered first base during a spring training start, an injury that led eventually to the hip strain, which threw off Wang’s delivery.
Johnson has not made a decision about how he may use Wang. “I wouldn’t have any qualms about starting him or using him out of the ‘pen,” he said.
With the Nationals’ strong rotation and John Lannan now in the fold, there may not be any starts for Wang, even with Stephen Strasburg’s impending shutdown. It would still be a bit of a surprise if Wang plays a key role down the stretch, but Johnson can certainly envision that.