When the Nationals signed Chien-Ming Wang two years ago, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. The pitcher had been ground-breaking for Taiwanese players in the league and had recently had shoulder surgery. The Nats knew it was going to take time, but the saga that ensued was far from expected.
Wang suffered setbacks, and it seemed as though every time he overcame one injury, another would pop up. It was discouraging, and while the team had had Wang under contract for nearly two years, he didn’t make his debut in a Nats uniform (or a uniform of any of its minor-league affiliates) until this past June.
That is when Wang’s life as a National began. He started in Low-A with the Hagerstown Suns and made stops along the minor-league routes as he worked his way to DC. After a little over a month of rehab starts, Wang made his Nationals debut on July 29.
Since then, Wang has been a part of the rotation, but it hasn’t been without growing pains. He had to really work to keep his sinker down and regain the command that made him so sought after in the first place. Even at the beginning of today’s outing, you could tell he had to settle in a bit.
We’ve been blessed to see the comeback of Stephen Strasburg go so flawlessly, but Wang has an entirely different story. Strasburg returned as Stephen Strasburg. Wang had to find himself again after being off the mound for a year and a half. He would lose himself at times, but then he would show glimpses of his previous talent. Eventually, that ratio began to change, and now it is more “Old Wang” and less “Damaged Wang” (hehe).
Today may have been his strongest start yet in the Nats victory, pitching 6.2 innings while allowing 6 hits, 3 runs, and struck out 5 while walking none (although he did give up two home runs). It’s good timing too, because Wang has gotten to see his competition for a spot in next year’s rotation.
With a healthy Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Brad Peacock and Tom Milone knocking on the door, not to mention Ross Detwiler and the pitchers already in the rotation, it’s going to be a tight fit. With his durability concerns and low number of starts, Wang has to make the most of every opportunity. He did that today, and the fact he made it out of the injury woods will mean something when decisions are being made in March.