By Jon Lane
As we begin a new week, the top storyline in Yankeeland is the alarming situation surrounding Chien-Ming Wang. I wrote last week that Wang didn’t suddenly forget how to pitch and afforded him until mid-May before drawing any conclusions. Little did I know that Wang would surrender eight runs on eight hits in 1 1/3 innings on Saturday that saddled him with an ERA of 34.50.
Suddenly, someone who entered the season with 54 wins in 97 big-league starts could find himself being skipped over his next start, scheduled for Friday night in Boston. You can’t throw Wang out there, you just can’t. Study the pitching lines of his first three outings:
April 8: 3 2/3 IP, 7 ER, 9 H
April 13: 1 IP, 8 ER, 6 H
April 18: 1 1/3 IP, 8 ER, 8 H
Not a pretty picture. Neither is Wang’s career 5.11 ERA in seven starts at Fenway Park. And when the idea of sending Wang to the Minors to follow the path of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, two aces who had to go back to the beginning before evolving into Cy Young Award winners, Joe Girardi clarified why that’s not feasible.
Wang is out of options and cannot be sent down without exposing him to waivers, which means it’ll take about the average time Wang has lasted in his three starts for another team to scoop him up. Since Wang, Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland continue to insist the right-hander is healthy, the only alternative to exposing him to the Fenway wolves is giving him a good nine days to repair his mechanics and confidence.
Our Kimberly Jones guesses that Wang will throw a simulated game either on Thursday’s off day or Friday, perhaps in Tampa. She also shared a suggestion from Brian Bruney which raises an excellent point. Like Wang, Bruney recovered from a Lisfranc injury and he believes that Wang has not re-gained the trust of his push-off foot, the same foot that was injured last June in Houston. What bothers me the most is how Wang said yesterday that after watching video he believes there are no mechanical differences from this season to last season, which went against what Girardi said. Denial is worse that any physical ailment. The first step to figuring out why you’re not pitching well is to admit something is wrong.
Wang, 29, is a major investment for the Yankees today and tomorrow. Taking the next nine days to figure out some sort of solution won’t hurt the team as this stage. A.J. Burnett can be slotted into Wang’s space on Friday with the rest of the starters on their regular turns until the Yankees need a fifth starter April 29 in Detroit. If the sabbatical fails to work, you’re looking at the increasing likelihood of Phil Hughes being recalled from Triple-A Scranton and Wang serving as the long reliever the Yankees decided not to take up north.
Back later with tonight’s lineups.