VIERA FL - FEBRUARY 25: Chien-Ming Wang #40 of the Washington Nationals poses for a portrait during Spring Training Photo Day at Space Coast Stadium on February 25 2011 in Viera Florida. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
When reporters finally got to see former Yankees' right-handed sinker baller Chien-Ming Wang throw a bullpen session this Spring some were wondering if reports from D.C. GM Mike Rizzo about his progress earlier this winter had been a bit too optimistic. Rizzo had told reporters, including MLB.com's Bill Ladson who quoted Washington's general manager this January in an article entitled, "Rizzo: Wang will be ready for Spring Training", that Wang, who'd spent the entire 2010 season rehabbing from shoulder surgery he's undergone in 2009, was in Arizona throwing off a mound and coming to Spring Training ready to pitch. Wang's "'...not in rehabilitation mode right now,'" Rizzo said, "'He is in preparation mode for Spring Training.'"
Though Wang's first throwing session failed to impress, reports on the pitcher's progress improved each time he threw. Before yesterday's workouts, it was announced that Wang would see his first live action on the mound since throwing in the Florida Instructional League this Friday in an intra-squad game with Nats' minor leaguers. The right-hander later impressed reporters in live BP. "Chien-Ming Wang broke Danny Espinosa's bat with a sinker. That's a good sign," Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) wrote on Twitter. "I'm not a pitching coach," MLB.com's Mr. Ladson (@washingnats) Tweeted, "but it looked like #Nats RHP Chien-Ming Wang was throwing harder than ever." The Nats' GM agreed with the MLB.com writer's assessment, telling reporters, " "that was the loosest his arm has been and the best stuff he's shown," as the Washington Post's Mr. Kilgore noted in his Saturday workout wrapup entitled, "Chien-Ming Wang throws his 'best stuff' of the spring, will pitch in games."
Wang, himself, and his agent, had said earlier this winter that he thought May was the target date for his return to the Major Leagues. At the start of Spring Training, Wang told reporters he expected to start the season on the DL so he could continue to build shoulder strength, and as he told MLB.com's Mr. Ladson in an article entitled, "Wang doesn't expect to be ready by opener", start to, "build up the innings and the pitch count." "It will take one or two months,'" Wang told reporters, "'The Nationals will tell me when I can pitch.'"
"'From what I saw last year to the point he's at right now,'" Nats' Pitching Coach Steve McCatty said yesterday as CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman wrote in an article on Wang's improvement entitled, "Wang to face minor-leaguers next week", "'I'm sure everyone is very pleased.'" The Nationals paid the right-hander $2M last year to rehab, and then re-signed him to a $1M dollar incentive-based deal earlier this Winter. Wang returned to Washington, at least in part, because he, "...felt loyalty to Washington for covering his medical expenses," last season, as Boston Globe.com writer Nick Cafardo wrote this winter when Wang and the Nats agreed on the one-year deal. Though he most likely won't start the season in D.C., the investment the Nationals made might finally pay off this season after a long, hard road back for the two-time 19-game winner who hasn't pitched since July 4, 2009.
• Catcher Chatter:
MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Wang has his best throwing session of spring", confirmed reports from SI.com's Jon Heyman (SI_JonHeyman) about the Phillies' inquiries about the availability of right-handed power bat Michael Morse, who, the Phils reportedly thought, might fit nicely into their left-handed-hitting-heavy lineup with Jayson Werth likely to be replaced by lefty Domonic Brown or relatively-light-hitting right-handed outfielder Ben Francisco. Mr. Ladson also confirmed Mr. Heyman's follow-up report which said Washington had no interest in dealing Morse
Mr. Ladson did, however, throw former NY Mets' backstop prospect and Nats' Rule 5 steal Jesus Flores' name out there as one that might be dealt this Spring as the Nats find themselves with a backstop backup now that the 26-year-old Flores is seemingly healthy for the first time in two years and in camp competing for time with Wilson Ramos and Pudge Rodriguez, the two catchers most likely to leave Spring Training with roster spots. In the article entitled, "Club has plenty of talent behind plate", the MLB.com writer notes that since the Nats don't see Flores, Ramos or prospect Derek Norris switching positions, "Washington most likely will trade one of the catchers for pitching," and Mr. Ladson believes, "It could happen before the regular season starts." The "leading candidate" to go, Mr. Ladson thinks, "could be Flores."
Earlier this winter in answering a question in the January 10th edition MLB.com's Bill Ladson's, "Inbox: How's Opening Day lineup shaping up?", about the Nats' Opening Day roster, the Nats' beat writer for MLB said that he, "...would not be surprised if [Pudge] Rodriguez was traded before Opening Day in order to make room for Ramos and Jesus Flores," since Mr. Ladson saw, "Ramos and Flores belong in the big leagues in 2011, "with Ramos as the starter." In an early February edition of MLB.com's Mr. Ladson's "Inbox: Will offseason moves help Nats in '11?", he wrote that, "it would not come as a surprise if the Nationals use Flores as a trade chip during Spring Training."
A clearly-in-decline Pudge is owed $3M dollars in the second year of a two-year/$6M dollar deal he signed with Washington, and Flores is two-years-removed from Major League action, so how desirable either player is on the market right now is debatable. Of course, a source told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore earlier this winter, in an article entitled, "Nationals 'aggressively pursuing' trade for Zack Greinke and Matt Garza; but can they make it happen?", that the Nats might consider parting with Wilson Ramos in the right deal too if Flores was healthy...so who knows.
• Random Notes:
• Cla Meredith had a second MRI on his ailing right elbow and is awaiting results according to several reports, which doesn't bode well for the right-hander who had surgery on his elbow this winter. After experiencing pain during a bullpen session, the veteran right-hander, who was signed in early February, had the initial exam which showed no damage, but the second, an arthrogram, as we all know now, if we didn't before August, should provide a better look at what's bothering the reliever. The results are due Monday.
• Right-hander Henry Rodriguez, acquired from the A's along with OF Corey Brown in the trade that sent Josh Willlingham to Oakland, is still stuck in Venezuela. Visa issues have cost the 23-year-old flame-throwing reliever considerable time already, especially since he's out of options and expected to start the season in the Nats' bullpen. The only other pitcher who was battling Visa problems, former Mets' prospect Elvin Ramirez, arrived in camp late last week and has already thrown a couple of bullpen sessions.
• BTW: Don't expect to see too many of the Mets' starters this Spring when they play the Nats. NY Skipper Terry Collins told NY Times' writer David Waldstein in an article entitled, "Familiarity Breeds a Change in Routine", that he'd have his top starters throw against minor leaguers to keep opposing NL East teams from getting too familiar since the Mets' ST schedule involves 22 of 36 games against NL East rivals.
• Monday's game Spring Training opener with the Mets will be broadcast live on the Mets' tv station SNY in NY and it will be streaming live on MLB.tv tomorrow afternoon at 1:10 pm EST. Who's going to miss Bryce Harper's first Spring AB against the Metsies?