The team of MLB players touring Taiwan wrapped up their five-game exhibition series with the Chinese Taipei national team on Sunday afternoon in Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium in the country's second-largest city, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. 31-year-old Washington Nationals' right-hander Chien-Ming Wang returned to a mound in his home country for the first time since 2003, pitching against the major leaguers for the Chinese Taipei team, throwing 45 pitches in 2.0 IP.
Wang was pitching for the first time since his new one-year deal with Washington was announced this past Friday. The two-time 19-game winner returned to the mound this season after two years spent recovering from surgery to repair a torn capsule in his right shoulder. Wang signed with Washington before the 2010 season and re-upped in 2011, finally returning to the mound in the majors in late-July in the nation's capital.
Wang showed enough improvement to warrant the Nationals giving the sinker-balling right-hander a 1-year/$4M dollar deal. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that Wang would pitch without restrictions in 2012. "We feel that what we saw at the end of the season, with another full off season to rehab, that he should come to Spring Training 100% ready to go, so there will be no limitations whatsoever on Chien-Ming."
A report on this afternoon's game in The China Post, which refers to the one-time New York Yankees' starter as "our local hero," noted that Wang was not at full-strength right now. "Wang obviously did not make maximum effort to push for pitching speed but focus[ed] mainly on the control of the ball," the China Post reporter wrote.
"He was smart,'" Giants' manager Bruce Bochy (who guided the MLB team) told MLB.com's Doug Miller in the MLB writer's report on the game. "He didn't overextend himself. He got his work in. When you've had an injury and been out two years, you're doing the right thing by not trying to do too much out there." Wang was removed from the game by Chinese Taipei's manager Chen Wei-cheng one pitch into the third so that he could receive an ovation from the crowd in his home country.
Wang and his teammate with the Nationals, Michael Morse, faced off this afternoon, with Nats' mascot Screech (@ScreechTheEagle) reporting via the Twitter from Taiwan, "Morse's first AB vs Wang was a hard hit ball, caught on the warning track." Screech described the atmosphere in Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium as "electric" while Chien-Ming Wang was on the mound. "' can't even imagine what it must be like to be Wang here in Taiwan,'" Michael Morse (who was apparently pretty popular himself) is quoted saying by the Nats' official twitter @Nationals, "'He's easily the biggest celebrity,'" Morse says.
Wang was (4-3) in 11 starts for the Nationals this season, rediscovering his sinker as he walked 13 (1.88 BB/9), struck out 25 (3.61 K/9) and put up a 4.04 ERA and a 4.57 FIP in 62.1 IP. Wang's expected to be part of the 2012 Nats' rotation along with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan and whichever young Nationals' starter can claim the fifth spot. If the Nationals sign another free agent pitcher as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo says they still intend to, there's going to be a logjam at the major league level that will have to be sorted out this Winter or in the Spring. Wang's last outing until then and the fifth and final game of the Taiwan All-Star Series is being broadcast at 9:00 pm EST tonight on the MLB Network and on MLB.com. Anyone watching Chien-Ming Wang's return to Taiwan?