Monday, March 5, 2012

Wang looks sharp vs. minor leaguers

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chien-Ming Wang throws a pitch during today's intrasquad minor-league game.
VIERA, Fla. -- Davey Johnson last watched Chien-Ming Wang pitch in a game situation at the Nationals' minor-league complex here in December 2010. Then a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo, Johnson didn't like what he saw.

"It was ugly," he said.

Standing near that same field down the road from Space Coast Stadium this afternoon, Johnson again watched Wang face minor leaguers from the Nationals' organization in an intrasquad game. What he saw bore no resemblance to that last encounter.

What he saw was a full healthy pitcher merely preparing for the start of the season.

"What I'm seeing now, I've kind of got him in that [Stephen] Strasburg mode: He's back," Johnson said, referring to another right-hander who has fully recovered from major surgery. "Now it's just giving him as much work as he needs to get ready for opening the season."

The first step for Wang came today on Field 3 in Viera. He threw two innings against minor leaguers, allowing one unearned run on four hits, striking out three without walking a batter. He threw a total of 31 pitches, 24 strikes, then retreated to the bullpen to another simulated inning and build up his arm strength.

Wang's fastball velocity -- 88-89 mph consistently, topping out at 91 mph -- was down a tick from where it was at the end of last season. But that's the case with all healthy pitchers in early March, who are merely building themselves up to be in peak form around Opening Day.

Team officials were encouraged last fall when Wang returned from a two-year recovery from shoulder surgery and posted a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts. They're even more encouraged this spring.

"I thought these two innings right here were better than his two innings usually at the start of a game last year," pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "I thought there was better arm strength. I thought the movement was good. I was real pleased with it."

Wang did allow a couple of well-struck, extra-base hits to prospects Brian Goodwin and Randolph Oduber on flat sliders, and afterward acknowledged his breaking balls still need more work.

But he feels comfortable enough with his trademark sinker to tinker around with more breaking stuff, including a curveball he's attempting to add to his repertoire this spring.

The difference between today and last September is stark.

"Actually I feel better today compared to last season," Wang said through interpreter John Hsu. "Because during the offseason I work out and try to build up my arm strength. I think I feel better now."

Wang's next outing will come in five days, against the New York Mets at Space Coast Stadium. Left-hander John Lannan, also battling for the final spot in the Nationals' rotation, will start that same day in the other split-squad game against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland.

For now, the Nationals have no complaints.

"It was what I was expecting to see," Johnson said. "And I wasn't disappointed."

49 comments:

NatsLady said...

Oldguy-- thanks for info on BP book tour. I listen to every podcast. Can't go (work) but I plan to order the book.

D'Gourds said...

Good news! Love the competition for the 5th spot.

Anonymous said...

Good news indeed!

dfh21

natsfan1a said...

Not crazy. That is an adult bald eagle.

Mark Tweetered: Am I crazy or is this a bald eagle hovering over Viera? http://t.co/RpohFQ69 56 minutes ago

natsfan1a said...

Not crazy. That is an adult bald eagle.

Mark Tweetered: Am I crazy or is this a bald eagle hovering over Viera? http://t.co/RpohFQ69 56 minutes ago

natsfan1a said...

Sigh. And I haven't even had one bon-bon yet. (But I did have two cups of coffee.)

Gardner said...

I hope this doesn't come off as ignorant but it surprises me when a guy who has played in the US for as long as Wang needs an interpreter. In contrast to a guy like Darvish who has spoken honestly about the importance of learning English to make himself a better teammate. It seems like a way to alienate yourself from your squad.

natsfan1a said...

My impression (from what I've read over time) is that his comprehension of English is good but he prefers to have an interpreter present when dealing with the media. Maybe that's a function of having played in New York and dealt with the media there. I also have the impression that every so often the media there can be a tad bit difficult for players to deal with. :-)

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Gardner, don't take this wrong, but ... we seem to have this discussion every time the word "interpreter" gets used.

Just because he uses an interpreter to talk to the media, for publication, doesn't mean he needs one for day-to-day stuff.

natsfan1a said...

Yay - two Cokes for me!

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Better pace yourself on those sodas, 1a. It's a long season. A marathon, you might say, compared to, for instance, a dash. Or something.

Not Werth It said...

Quick crowdsource question for the Nats faithful: I'm planning a trip down to Veira the first weekend of March Madness, anyone have any tips in setting up a tailgate with TV screens to watch the games?

I'm looking into projector rentals but I was hoping maybe someone here had an inside connection/good idea. Thanks and go Nats!

Not Werth It said...

P.S. You guys are invited.

Gonat said...

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120305&content_id=27015536&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

McCutcheon signs a 6 year extension for just over $8 million a year $51 million. That seems like a bargain for the team considering they bought out Free Agent years.

Sunderland said...

Over time you learn to take everything coaches, managers, and GM's say with a grain of salt. So they can say Wang looked great, but the fact is that two guys who will likely be in A Ball hit extra base ropes off of Wang. Now that's not necessarily the most important fact, and maybe they did see things that made them feel good about Wang, but Wang would not have gotten out of the 2nd inning of an MLB game throwing one or two flat sliders an inning.

Feel Wood said...

Sunderland, it's the first game of spring training. One or two flat sliders an inning is not that big a deal. In case you didn't notice, even the great Strasburg had several bad pitches each inning he pitched yesterday - although his were not flat sliders but instead balls in the dirt that Ramos had to block. And some Astros scrub took Strasburg deep, too.

Sec314 said...

Why anyone thinks there's "competition" for the 5th spot is beyond me. Wang CANNOT be traded and he would be worthless in the Pen. And they certainly won't release him either. Unless he gets hurt, he's the #5 starter.

Sunderland said...

Feel Wood - I get it. Commenting more on the "he looks sharp...better than last year...movement was good...good arm strength" comments from McCatty et al. Maybe. But we hear this stuff all the time. It means nothing. There's no reason to feel bad about the outing, but also no real reason to feel particularly good about the outing either.

Anonymous said...

Former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra was sentenced Monday to three years in state prison in a grand theft auto case.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ulfig sentenced Dykstra after refusing to allow him to withdraw a no-contest plea.

The judge said the theft scheme showed sophistication and extensive planning.

Dykstra was immediately remanded to custody and he walked into the court's back room, hands in his pockets.

http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/dykstra-seeks-withdraw-contest-plea-15847554

Anonymous said...

Cutter Dykstra can't be a happy camper today.

Anonymous said...

Wang CANNOT be traded and he would be worthless in the Pen.

After a certain point in May HE CAN BE TRADED. In the end Detwiler is the fifth starter. Given the make up of the rotation (young, controllable, power pitching) he's the guy that fits the best. At least until Rosenbaum or Purke are ready. IF Detwiler can prove he can pitch consistently as a starter at the major league level.

Wang and Lannan are both trade bait all things considered. The Nats are playing it the right way ... knowing how injuries occur to starters both within their organization and outside.

We'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Cwj said...

Sec314- I agree. Although some people have pointed out they could stash him on the DL to start the season, though I'm not sure what the point of that would be.

A DC Wonk said...

Wang CANNOT be traded and he would be worthless in the Pen....

After a certain point in May HE CAN BE TRADED.


But keep in mind: we may well need a 6th starter. He can fill in spots here and there during the year, to get ready to take over when Stras hits his innings limit.

Cwj said...

Anon- For some reason I thought he couldn't be traded at all.
You're right though.

Steady Eddie said...

Sunderland @3:44 --
They can feel good about the outing for lack of anything much to feel bad about the outing, ;-)

Big Cat said...

I have said for over a year now that Desi is as athletic as they come and will be a great shortstop in the bigs for 10 years. After those 2 boots the other day, I am beginning to lose faith. A high schooler makes those with ease. The "he is young" excuse is gone. For us to compete he has to step up and play like a major leaguer.

NatsBrat said...

Wang, given his injury history, age, and FA status for 2013, would seem to me to have less upside than either Detwiler and Lannan. And, to beat all, he's just now trying to develop a curve!

If you see Davey and Rizzo standing in the far corner drinking Kool Aide, try to stop them from getting seconds!

DWS said...

This may already have been addressed by the time this is posted.

RELAX people...It's spring training. Hopefully we'll see more against Mr Gee tonight.

I am concerned about the bats but hope for the best.

And worrying about a fifth starter? Sit back and think about it. Breathe in.....

Natitudinous said...

All: Is tonight's game on MLB network? MLB Network yesterday indicated it would be.

But they also said yesterday's game would be on MLB network, and instead of the game they were showing blooper reels. It sucked. (I was working during the MASN broadcast)

If they are blacked out on MLB, does this mean we'll be watching a lame MASN Mid-Atlantic sports show ABOUT the Nats when the Nats are actually playing?

DWS said...

Oh, and enough with the Desi crap. I thought this post was about Wang.

Perhaps Mark will favor you with a "Is he or isn't he" MLB ready. Imagine the comments!

DWS said...

Natitudinous said...

All: Is tonight's game on MLB network? MLB Network yesterday indicated it would be.

But they also said yesterday's game would be on MLB network, and instead of the game they were showing blooper reels. It sucked. (I was working during the MASN broadcast)

If they are blacked out on MLB, does this mean we'll be watching a lame MASN Mid-Atlantic sports show ABOUT the Nats when the Nats are actually playing?

As far as I know. If you subscribed to MLB TV.

natsfan1a said...

All signs point to "yes" re. today's game broadcast. It's listed on the MLB Network site, the team site, and my cable provider guide. Also, nice moniker. :-)

sjm308 said...

Not that anyone on here would care but besides the MLB broadcast of our Washington Nationals, MASN is indeed showing another round of bloopers, but they are calling it an exhibition game between the Orioles and Pirates. Lots of baseball on for early March!!

Naturday Night Live said...

I actually tivo'd yesterday's game on MLB Network. The cable guide said Nats vs. Astros...but when I played it, it was all the bloopers and rain-delay junk. So I think MASN is screwing us out of the game.

natsfan1a said...

Well, I guess we'll know for sure in an hour or so.

NatsLady said...

I think they were planning to put the game on a tape delay but they actually broadcast it in "real-time." I was set to go to the gym where they have cable or satellite, as I didn't expect it on MLB.tv, but there it was and I watched it at home on my 'puter... so much for plans.

MASN did show the game, just not when they said they would show it.

JamesFan said...

Gardner 2:59 How many languages do you speak? How about Spanish? Americans are notorious for not learning the language of host countries around the world. I'm sure Taiwan is full of Americans who live there and don't speak a word. Criticising a guy for using a translator in a media interview is silly. He is smart to do so even if he speaks decent english. This is baseball. I'm judging him on his era not his linguistic skills.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Re: Wang....They were flat sliders. They were the only balls not pounded into the ground.

Wang threw another 15 pitches on the side after his stint on the mound and his stuff was really sinking.

Cwj said...

I don't understand why MASN isn't broadcasting ALL spring training games.
It's not like they have anything else to show.

Joe S. said...

I'm a banker. The rare times I talk to the press, I do so through an interpreter. Except they call it "public information.". The press is hard to deal with. I'm amazed that most pro athletes do a decent job with it.

Gardner said...

@JamesFan - I speak English, Spanish (decently), and Portuguese (pretty well). Actually worked in Brazil for a large American company and would have felt like a massive turd if after a year in country I (1) had an interpreter or (2) spoke English with my coworkers. I'm hardly insistant that everyone has to learn English and like you I am judging him on his ERA as well. Just struck me as odd.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Not to beat Barbaro into the ground here, but keep in mind CMW probably has more press attention, i.e., readers, back home than he does here, so it probably benefits him to just keep the translating to one direction.

DWS said...

The only Expo I'm aware of to make an effort to learn a second language in Montreal(French) was Gary Carter. That tells you a lot about the man.

He made an honest effort in everything he did. I just hope that Bryce learns from his example. Work hard and garner the respect from the fans.

You can have all the talent in the world (Alex Rodriguez) and be known for attitude and self worth, or somebody like Ken Griffey Jr or Larry Walker.

I just hope that unlike the Expos the Nats can afford to keep Bryce. Assuming he has the ability
to be humble and realize he can be like Ryan. Couldn't find a better example.

My two cents. Enjoy the game!

第节3,我的沙发上 said...

当然,所有的翻译是不是好翻译。

Anonymous said...

I am an English Canandian who live in the only bilingual Province in a bilingual country. I speak a little french and the only English canadians who speak french are those who need it for work or are in a location where it is necessary. English TV provided many French Canadians with the opportunity to learn english...there was very little french TV. 4 year olds speak both languages so brain power is not the guiding light. Just my opinion of course. Love Viera and the Nats for 5 weeks and am learning American gradually.....eh.

Anonymous said...

look what torres did leading off,bb,sb,run. he hit 43 doubles in 2010,but battled injuries in 2011.He's great defensively,play with energy,and had a great story.it would be great if the nats had him.

Gardner said...

I really like the guy and didn't in any way mean to disparage him. As a former pitcher I couldn't imagine not being able to shoot the shit with my guys as there is a ton of downtime for those every fifth dayers. In doing some homework it does seem he speaks some English.

Feel Wood said...

MASN did show the game, just not when they said they would show it.

MASN showed the game live at 1:00, exactly when the MASN website said they would show it. I believe the MLB website showed the incorrect day/time for the MASN broadcast.

m20832 said...

The broadcast was on mlb tv @6:10pm. Except the announcers were SNY (sports new york?) guys. Interviewed the Muts in their dugout. Didn't do anything with the Nats.

GYFNG!!!

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