Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chien-Ming Wang throws during live BP today.
Such is the case for Chien-Ming Wang. Though he's now 2 1/2 years removed from major shoulder surgery and appears by all indications to be 100 percent healthy, each of his throwing sessions draws more than a typical amount of attention.
When Wang took the mound today to face hitters, nearly every important member of the Nationals' coaching staff and front office paused to watch. At various points, manager Davey Johnson was there, as were pitching coach Steve McCatty, general manager Mike Rizzo and head trainer Lee Kuntz.
The consensus opinion: Wang was sharp, maybe sharper than he's been in a long time.
"He looks good," McCatty said to a few fellow onlookers as he walked away to watch another pitcher on an adjacent field.
In particular, Wang appeared to be getting a lot of late movement on his trademark sinker. He induced a string of foul balls that rattled off the batting cage, leaving the batters reaching for pitches that started out in the strike zone only to dart down and to the right at the last instant.
"His delivery is free and easy," Johnson said. "As he went along, he got stronger. His velocity was better."
Wang hasn't been blowing anyone away with his stuff so far this spring, and he's been taking extra days off between throwing sessions to make sure his shoulder remains strong and he doesn't experience any setbacks. But the Nationals like what they see so far, and -- for now -- they expect him to be a part of the Opening Day rotation.
"He's a veteran pitcher," Johnson said. "He knows what he has to do to peak at the right time."