After watching Chien-Ming Wang throw a bullpen session two weeks back, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson declared the Washington Nationals' 32-year-old sinkerballing right-hander fit to return to the mound in the majors. Wang, who missed time this season with DL stints in which he dealt with hamstring and hip issues, bounced in an out of the rotation while in the majors, trading places with Ross Detwiler at several points. On his rehab assigments this year, the former two-time 19-game winner with New York, posted a 5.51 ERA in 15 starts and 80.0 IP at various levels of the Nats' system. In eight games, four as a starter this year with Washington, Wang has a 6.92 ERA, 6.06 FIP, 14 walks (4.85 BB/9) and 13 Ks (4.50 K/9) in 26.0 IP.
In the bullpen session, however, Johnson said the pitcher was back to looking like the pitcher who impressed in a short stint this Spring before the hamstring injury set him back. "That's the best I've seen him since Spring," Johnson told reporters, "He was outstanding. Great pen. I was pleased with that." Asked then what the plans were for Wang, the Nationals' manager said he wasn't sure. "Now that I saw [Wang] firsthand," Johnson said, "I hadn't seen him in three or four months, I like what I saw."
"He kept the ball down," the Nats' manager continued, "Velocity, he's strong as a bull. Good breaking ball. Good changeup. Good four-seamer, good two-seamer, good command." Johnson dismissed the numbers Wang put up while pitching in the minors. "If he was throwing like he threw today, they would have been off the charts," he explained. "A lot of it down there is [he] probably tried to overthrow, he tried to do too much," Johnson said, "When he started his pen today he was overthrowing everything. [He's] a very competitive pitcher. Very driven. And when he got settled in and didn't try to overthrow, it was still real pert. Great movement, great location. It was off the chart."
Johnson said then that he'd have no problem putting Wang back out on the mound to start. "I wouldn't have any qualms at all about starting him or using him out of the pen." With the doubleheader on Wednesday, the Nationals were forced to decide who they would start on Sunday since they didn't want any of their starters throwing on short rest. According to reports out of Nationals Park today, Johnson has decided to give Wang that start:
Davey impressed w Wang last night & doesn't want to alter Stammen's role. Starting Stammen would also make him unavailable days before&after— Amanda Comak (@acomak) September 20, 2012
Chien-Ming Wang will start Sunday. Davey liked what he saw last night.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) September 20, 2012
Wang threw 2.1 scoreless against LA last night (after uncorking a wild pitch that let a run score on the first pitch he threw), pitching in the majors for the first time since June 30th. He'll make his fifth start of the year on Sunday.