By Jon Lane
I’m trying to figure out how and why the Yankees are handling Chien-Ming Wang.
Here’s someone coming into 2009 who was 46-15 with a 3.74 ERA in three seasons and slotted in between CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the team’s revamped rotation.
Alright, Wang started 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA,
allowing 23 runs on 23 hits over six innings. Apparently he wasn’t completely over the foot injury that ended his season in 2008 and that contributed to the poor results. So the Yankees disable him to allow him to start from the beginning and clear his head. He throws 13 scoreless innings in two rehab games for Triple-A Scranton. One more was scheduled before his return to the big-league rotation, but that was changed when Joba Chamberlain was struck by a line drive in the first
inning of a game last Thursday, which meant Wang was told to return to New York and serve as a needed arm in a depleted bullpen.
That’s fair. You could not blame the Yankees for making a move they didn’t want to make. The problem now is Wang is stuck in purgatory and the reasons are perplexing. Last night, after Chamberlain was removed after laboring for four innings, was the ideal spot to give Wang not just work, but quality work; the score was 3-1 Rangers in the bottom of the fifth.
Alas, Joe Girardi summoned Alfredo Aceves, who for reasons known only to Girardi pitched a meaningless ninth inning of an eventual 11-1 Yankees win the day before. Wang has thrown three innings in the last nine days. Aceves has been the best out of all of Mariano Rivera’s set-up men.
Alas, Aceves (who has been real good) gave up three runs on four hits in two innings and the Yankees lost 7-5. Girardi said Aceves was his choice because he was the hot hand. So why pitch him in garbage time, in the middle of the game, while a two-time 19-game winner is sitting confused on the bench?
“I just felt like we’d go to Ace,” Girardi said.
Meanwhile, it’s hurry up and wait with Wang, out of the rotation with Phil Hughes pitching well and no chance he goes to the Minors because he’s out of options. The Yankees hope A.J. Burnett can turn it up tonight and lead the Yankees to a series win over a first-place team, but would it hurt to give Wang some work?
“This is very hard for me,” Wang told reporters in Arlington, Texas, before yesterday’s game. “At least I could pitch. Now I don’t know what to do.”
And observers of the team are left wondering why.