WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: Manager Davey Johnson #5 of the Washington Nationals argues a call with home plate umpire Dale Scott #5 in the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on July 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Mets won the game 8-5. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Nationals' Skipper Davey Johnson let out a long, exasperated breath as he sat down in front of the microphone and beyond the mic the D.C. press corps following Washington's sixth-straight loss last night, an 8-5 defeat at the hands of the New York Mets. Asked about the effort on the part of Chien-Ming Wang, who'd returned to the mound following over two years of rehabbing his right shoulder, Johnson said, "I was actually impressed. I thought he threw the ball rather pertly. That first inning he got the ball up, they've got some good hitters in the lineup, they didn't try to do too much with it, just hit soft little line drives. Second inning he got the ball down more. I don't think his arm is fully strong. Some of his breaking balls were not breaking too good, but I liked the way he threw and if he didn't have the rough first inning where he threw a lot of pitches I probably would have gone another inning with him."
Davey Johnson was then asked if Chien-Ming Wang will get another start, and the manager responded clearly, "Yes he will."
"It's unbelieveable the dedication he had to get to this point," Johnson said when asked about Wang working his way back to the mound. "I was pleased with his delivery. It looked like he dropped down a little bit more than I'd like to see him. I'd like him a little bit more on top, but second and third inning I liked the way the ball was moving, but again, it's just two years, and most of it's been building up his arm, but for me, he threw strikes, that was great. All in all, my main concern was he come out of there healthy. And he said he was feeling okay, he could continue, but I wanted to err on the safe side."
The manager was also impressed by Chien-Ming Wang's reaction to a rough first in which he surrendered four runs to the Mets. "He kept his poise in a rough first inning," Johnson said, "after being out a couple years, I thought he stayed right in there and kept throwing strikes and going after them. Just got the ball up. All in all, I thought that was a good one to get under his belt." As for Wang's sinker, Johnson said, "It's not like it was before, but it's, again, early in his comeback. But his delivery looked free and easy, he had some good velocity on the ball, and I was pleased. I really didn't think I was going to see that much to be honest with you."
The loss was Wang's first since 2009 and the Nationals' sixth-straight this season, and Davey Johnson hinted that there may be some changes soon. "We're looking at things that we can do to help the ballclub. We're still in that building mode. There's some moves that we have available to us that we have a couple guys that are knocking on the door. Pitchers in particular, and depending on what happens the next couple days, we [might] see a new young arm up here. Right now, the starting pitching, we've got to have some improvement there and we're looking for Chien-Ming to give us some improvement there his next few outings."
Asked if he meant any particular "young arms" Johnson said, "[Tom] Milone has done a great job down there, he's probably been if not the best, one of the best pitchers in the International League, and young [Brad] Peacock came up, threw a one-hitter. He tore up Double-A. He's the other one. So, there's some guys that I'd like to get some experience up here."
As for what Chien-Ming Wang has to improve, Johnson said, "getting his arm built up to full-strength. He'll get better movement, better command, better everything. That's a typical...I wouldn't say typical, but that's the kind of start you get out of the Spring. Right out of Spring."
But all in all, Johnson said, "I was not disappointed with what I saw tonight." Chien-Ming Wang is back. He earned it, and in spite of the loss, seemed to enjoy the payoff for all the hard work he's done.