Monday, March 8, 2010

The hype builds

VIERA, Fla. -- Good morning from Space Coast Stadium, where a convergence of events is beginning to draw plenty more media members to Nationals camp. And no, I'm not talking about Cristian Guzman's spring debut at shortstop or Josh Willingham's spring debut in the lineup, though both will take place today.

The bigger developments are the return of Chien-Ming Wang following a two-week stint rehabbing his shoulder in Arizona and of course the debut tomorrow of Stephen Strasburg.

Each player brings with him a sizable media horde. There are at least a dozen Taiwanese reporters and photographers here today, and they'll remain here as long as Wang is around and wearing a uniform. For now, the right-hander is doing nothing more than playing catch with Jordan Zimmermann from 120 feet, but that still qualifies as news back in the Far East. Think of it as Strasburgmania-times-10.

So what exactly is the plan moving forward for Wang?

"We're pretty far down the road as far as having him pitch in games," manager Jim Riggleman said. "What remains to be seen is: When do we get him on the mound here, just to be throwing on a downhill plane to a catcher? That will be determined by how he feels the next few times playing a good, firm long-toss."

Riggleman was very careful not to put any timetable on Wang's actual return to the rotation, though upon signing the pitcher three weeks ago Mike Rizzo said it should come sometime in May.

We'll be talking to Wang later this morning, following his workout, so check back in a little while for his take on the whole matter. Don't, however, expect to read any fresh quotes today from Strasburg. The Nats' PR staff says he won't be talking the day before he starts this season, citing a policy other rotation members plan to follow (though just about every other guy has been made available to speak in advance of his first outing so far this spring).

So you'll just have to wait until after tomorrow's 2-inning start against the Tigers to hear the great one speak.


Positively Half St. said...

It almost makes you feel like the terrible pitching the Nats have accomplished up to this point is a cosmic set-up for Strasburg's debut. If Olsen pitches badly, and the Nats lose, it will be all the more of a feeding frenzy.

I am very interested in the progress of C-M Wang. I think his recovery is every bit as important as any other story on our team.

Section 222 said...

I agree with PHS. If Wang is on the mound in May and pitches well, that's a huge boost for the team, and the sad days of our rotation being Lannan and four rookies will soon be a distant memory. But if he doesn't come back strong, and Olsen doesn't either, we'll have back to Lannan, Marquis, and three mediocre second year guys (or two and Livo), which won't be much of an upgrade. Improved starting pitching is the key to a better team this year. The next few days in ST will give us a little clue on whether there's real reason for hope.

greg said...

i'm as interested in olsen's results today and wang's progress as i am in strasburg (for now). if i can wangle an opportunity to watch tomorrow, i will. can't help it. but as far as what will happen with strasburg and when he'll come up, tomorrow will probably not have a huge effect on that.

olsen's outing today, however, will show where he is in his rehab process and how much of his old game he's recovered. not necessarily something you can see in a box score, i don't think, but more what his stuff is like and how he recovers from the outing.

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