Chien-Ming Wang expected to miss at least a couple weeks (plus Morse note)

TAMPA, Fla. - Tests have confirmed that Chien-Ming Wang suffered a left hamstring strain yesterday, not a tear as some might have originally worried.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said prior to today’s game against the Yankees that the hamstring injury will cause Wang to miss at least a couple of weeks.

“The only thing I know - he was tested and it’s a pull or a strain or whatever you want to call it,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be probably a couple weeks, minimum. He’s done something like that before. Even if it was a month, I don’t fool with hamstrings. I’ve had one this spring, I know how debilitating it can be. But if you’re going to have any kind of injury at all, now’s the time to have it. We’ve got three weeks roughly to go, and from what I’m seeing, a lot of clubs are even less fortunate.”

“If it’s going to happen, this is the best time to happen.”

Wang suffered the injury in the third inning of yesterday’s game against the Yankees, when he tried to field a slow ground ball between the mound and first base. The Nationals starter apparently pulled the hamstring when reaching down to pick up the ball, and then awkwardly tumbled to the ground when trying to tag first base.

The righty landed on his surgically repaired right shoulder, which he has been rehabbing for much of the last three years, but the hamstring appears to be the only issue caused by the fall.

“I’m concerned any time a guy goes through something like that,” Johnson said. “I saw the way he landed; it didn’t look like he landed right on his right shoulder, but when he got up with a slight limp, that was it.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who went out to talk with the first-base umpire as Wang was being attended to by the Nationals’ training staff, said after the game he feared Wang might have torn the hamstring. The Nats are clearly relieved that’s not the case.

Despite the injury, Johnson said Wang will still be able to throw, meaning he can continue to build up his arm strength even in his absence.

Asked about Wang’s status for opening day, Johnson said that isn’t his concern right now. The start of the regular season is still three weeks away, and because Wang was scheduled to slot in as the Nats’ fifth starter, he wouldn’t have needed to make his first start until April 11, assuming the starters above him in the rotation all pitched on normal rest.

An off-day April 6 would allow the Nats to pitch their opening day starter April 10 with his standard four days of rest in between outings. Still, if Wang does miss multiple weeks, his chances of being able to open as the Nats’ fifth starter appear slim, given he has yet to even throw three innings in an outing this spring.

Johnson obviously is taking Wang’s injury seriously, but he doesn’t want the entire story from yesterday to be about the starter’s hamstring. He wants to make sure what happened before the injury - Wang throwing 2 2/3 impressive innings, allowing no runs, two hits and striking out four - gets the attention it deserves.

“I expected it, and he even surpassed my expectations, the way he was going at it,” Johnson said. “I didn’t expect to see that kind of stuff until the end. Maybe it was (going against) the Yankees, he got a little adrenaline going, I don’t know. But I was impressed.”

Left fielder Michael Morse (lat strain) did not make the trip with the Nats today, despite being highlighted on the travel roster. Johnson didn’t have much of an update on either Morse or outfielder Rick Ankiel, who is dealing with a hamstring injury.

“I’m sure he’ll be doing something (today), knowing Morse,” Johnson said. “But I don’t know how he’s feeling. I don’t know what he’s thinking (and) I don’t know what the doctors are thinking on him (or) Ankiel.”

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