WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: Chien-Ming Wang #40 of the Washington Nationals walks off the field during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Nationals Park on June 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Nats' skipper Davey Johnson stuck with Chien-Ming Wang as long as he could in the sinkerballer's start in Toronto in spite of the fact that the 32-year-old right-hander walked five batters and threw 95 pitches in 5.0 IP. Wang threw 73 pitches in four innings against the Jays that day and gave up a leadoff walk and one-out later a two-run HR by Jose Bautista that got Toronto within one at 3-2 in a game that Washington would eventually win 4-2. Johnson told reporters after the game that he'd thought about lifting Wang before the end of the pitcher's 22-pitch fifth, but stuck with him out of respect for what the pitcher's accomplished in the last few years as he recovered from shoulder surgery and in his past with the New York Yankees.
"The only reason I stayed with him," the Nats' 69-year-old skipper explained, "[Is] because he's made such a great recovery coming back and he's won 19 games a couple times and I felt like I had to stay with him." That didn't mean Johnson was happy with what he saw from his 5th starter in what was Wang's fourth start of 2012. "That's really uncharacteristic of him. He threw 90 pitches, I guess, or something like that. But he regrouped enough to get out of the inning and that was the main thing. I wanted to give him a chance to get out of the inning and he did."
Wang struggled again last night against Tampa Bay, in his fifth start of the year, the Nationals' manager was forced to lift his starter after just 3.1 IP in which the Rays collected seven hits, three walks and five runs, four of them in a four-run third that followed a half-inning after Ian Desmond had given the Nationals a 2-1 lead with his 11th HR of 2012. Wang was one-out into the fourth, having given up a leadoff walk to the opposing pitcher and struck out one last batter before Johnson made the decision to turn to the bullpen and left-hander Ross Detwiler.
"He was rushing," Johnson said in explaining what he though the problem was with Wang, "When he gets out in front, it's kind of like a hitter lunging then he doesn't get a chance to get his arm up and that's why his command is a little struggling. He's still having some delivery problems. I mean, for him to throw that many pitches, and what he'd walk? Three of four guys? It's just not him. So, his arm strength is back, but he's still trying to do too much and not getting in position [to] locate the ball well. And that was his problem."
"I know how good he can be," Johnson said when asked if he would stick with the right-hander in the rotation, "My job is to try to get everybody doing the things they're capable of doing. That's my job. If I thought he could get it better out of the bullpen or starting, that would come into the decision. I'm not going to make a decision right after a rough outing and [Ross] Detwiler was obviously superb. I'll talk it over and see."
Less than twenty-four hours later, the Nationals' manager told reporters before this afternoon's game that he'd made a third reversal and once again decided to put Chien-Ming Wang back in the bullpen as he did when the veteran starter first returned from the DL after recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered this Spring:
#Nationals manager Davey Johnson has announced that Ross Detwiler will return to the rotation, with Chien-Ming Wang going to the bullpen.— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) June 20, 2012
Detwiler initially made the Nats' rotation out of Spring Training, beating John Lannan out for the fifth and final spot behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson after Wang injured his hamstring and was placed on the DL. After Wang initially pitched out of the pen upon returning from the injury, he was reinserted into the rotation since his surgically-repaired shoulder wasn't ideally suited for relief work. In 15 games and nine starts this season, the 26-year-old Detwiler is (4-3) with a 3.34 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 21 walks (3.05 BB/9) and 46 K's (6.68 K/9) in 62.0 IP. After last night's start, Chien-Ming Wang has a (2-3) record in five games, four starts and 20.2 IP over which he's walked 14 (6.10 BB/9), K'd 11 (4.79 K/9) and posted a 6.10 ERA with a 6.98 FIP.