Chien-Ming Wang threw another bullpen this afternoon, making some progress but not enough, pitching coach Steve McCatty said, that the Nationals are ready to set forth any kind of specific timetable.
The Nationals have diagnosed a small mechanical issue that, if and when Wang makes the correction, could help Wang finally finish the process of recovering from his summer 2009 shoulder surgery.
In the bullpen earlier this spring, McCatty noticed Wang rotating his hand too early, which affected the way his arm swung up in order to deliver a pitch. It moved almost like a catapult – think about how you throw a pie.
When the Nationals visited the Yankees, McCatty talked to Yankees executive and former pitching coach Billy Connors. He told McCatty that Wang had thrown like that before the injury, but not to the degree he had been this spring. So now, Wang is working to fix that flaw.
Over on the minor league side, two of the Nationals brightest pitching prospects made their spring game debuts. A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray, two high schoolers chosen in last year’s draft, each pitched two innings against tiny St. Ambrose college, an NAIA school from Iowa. It was only a couple innings against an overmatch opponent, but you could tell why both Cole (fourth round) and Ray (11th) are widely considered two of the Nationals best prospects.
Cole, a right-hander, started the game, showing a powerful fastball that was reportedly clocked in the mid-to-high 90s during his days at Oviedo High in Florida. He throws all his pitches hard, including a curve that he throws with a “spike” grip – with the top his index finger bent and pressed into the ball. The pitch breaks like a curve but has the tight, sharp bit of a slider.
Last summer, the Nationals signed Cole for $2 million, a record signing bonus for a fourth-round pick. Tall and lanky, he’s got an ideal frame a starting pitcher at 6 feet, 4 inches with plenty of weight to be packed on. This winter, Baseball America named Cole the fourth-best prospect in the Nationals’ system.
Ray, a left-hander, pitched after Cole. He throws with a deceptive three-quarters delivery, and the ball seems to almost jump out of his shoulder. He threw a nasty, nasty slider with a sweeping diagonal break, down and away from a left-handed batter. The Nationals signed last summer to a $799,900 signing bonus in order to lure him away from a commitment to the University of Arkansas.