VIERA, Fla. - Shortly after today’s 8-5 loss to the Yankees, the Nationals made four roster moves, optioning right-handed pitcher Yunesky Maya to Triple-A Syracuse and outfielder Eury Perez to Double-A Harrisburg and reassigning right-handers Jeff Fulchino and Waldis Joaquin to minor league camp.
The moves leave the Nats with 41 players in their big league camp.
By the time the roster moves had been announced, Chien-Ming Wang was gone, the right-handed starter having been taken off-site for tests on his injured left hamstring.
Wang went down in the third inning of today’s ballgame when he tried to make a play on a slow groundball between the mound and first base. His left leg appeared to buckle after landing near the bag awkwardly, and he fell to the ground, coming down on his surgically repaired shoulder. After getting attended to by a trainer for a minute, Wang walked off the field under his own power.
The Nationals are calling the injury to their veteran starter a strained hamstring, and all they can do now is await test results to determine how severe Wang’s injury is and see if he has any bruising in the coming days.
“He’s got a slight pull,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I could tell right away when he got up and was limping that was it for him. I hope it’s not serious.”
Johnson said he was told Wang actually suffered the injury when bending down to pick up the ball, not when he fell to the ground.
First baseman Chad Tracy was obviously right there as Wang went down, and said the pitcher appeared to be in pain when walking off the field.
“You could see his leg quivering,” Tracy said. “He just didn’t want to put any weight on it. You could tell he was hurting.”
Tracy said that situation - when a ball is hit softly between the pitcher and first baseman - is one of the tougher plays there is on the infield, because it’s tough to judge if the ball will get past the pitcher. If it does, the first baseman needs to come over to grab it, but if the pitcher can make a play on the ball, it’s his responsibility to do so.
This time, Tracy said, Wang did the right thing by snaring the grounder and going to touch the bag, but he just got thrown off balance.
“It all happened real fast, but it didn’t look natural,” Tracy said. “It was just one of those in-betweeners. It’s one of those things you work on in spring training all the time but just don’t really know how you draw that one up. I hope he’s all right. I haven’t gotten word on him.”
What makes the injury even more frustrating for the Nats to take is that Wang has spent the last three seasons diligently rehabbing from shoulder issues, and he finally appeared to be back toward full strength this spring. His shoulder felt healthy, and Nats officials believed that he was approaching “the old Chien-Ming.”
He had made it through 2 2/3 innings today, allowing just two hits and had struck out four, topping out at 93 mph on the radar gun. Wang’s sinker was heavy and appeared to have bite, and his slider was working.
“He was throwing the ball exceptionally well,” Johnson said. “I was really pleased with what I was seeing. Just reaffirmed the fact that he’s back, so it was a really tough break to see that happen.”
“It sucks,” said left-hander John Lannan, who is competing with Wang for the fifth spot in the Nats’ rotation. “He’s been throwing his butt off. It seems like he’s almost back, so hopefully there’s no setback.”