Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang drew quite a crowd while pitching live batting practice Monday. General manager Mike Rizzo, manager Davey Johnson, pitching coach Steve McCatty and minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams were all casting a critical eye at the session, in which Wang looked pretty strong.
Coming off shoulder problems that caused him to miss most of two seasons, Wang made 11 starts for the Nationals last season, rewarding the team’s patience during his prolonged recovery. Johnson has Wang penciled into his rotation for 2012, but reports that the right-hander was dealing with stiffness in his pitching shoulder early in camp raised questions about how ready Wang would be.
Today’s session further erased any lingering doubts for the manager, who prefers to let veteran pitchers get ready at their own pace.
“I look at his delivery and his delivery is free and easy,” Johnson said of Wang. “As he went along, he got stronger and his velocity was better. That’s his pace. He’s a veteran pitcher and he knows what he needs to do to peak at the right time. Some younger guys, when they hit the mound, it’s full-out. But the more veteran guys, it’s ‘I don’t have to miss every bat here.’ ... They know they’re building arm strength, working on location, working on release points. Being 100 percent at that point’s not part of their program. ... I don’t judge the guys who slowly build where they want to be.”
Wang fits into that category, even if he seemed to be taking a while to get into a rhythm once he returned to the majors last season.
“Last year, I was worried from start to start there might be a flare-up or something,” Johnson said. “It took him more to get loose and have a fluid delivery. Today, I heard comments - which is good - that his breaking ball was really good early and his fastball came later. Those are fine signs.”
Wang is scheduled to throw a simulated game March 5 is supposed to make his first Grapefruit League start March 10 against the Mets, in the home half of a split-squad game.