VIERA, Fla. - Davey Johnson would prefer that the Yankees weren’t in town today.
He has nothing against the Pinstripes, other than possibly from his time as a player and a manager with the Orioles, when he would battle with the Yanks a bunch of times each season.
But Johnson’s concern with Joe Girardi’s bunch is that the logo on their helmets will cause his starter today, Chien-Ming Wang, to push things too hard against the team that he played for from 2005-2009.
Wang is still in the process of building up his arm-strength and fine-tuning his control and command after a long rehab from a shoulder injury, and the last thing Johnson needs Wang doing is overdoing it at this point in spring.
“I hate this game coming when it’s coming, because I know in his mind, this was kind of a bell-ringer, playing the Yankees,” Johnson said. “But I hope he’s also veteran enough to know that it’s early April, when he needs to be thinking about getting everything right where he wants it - rhythm, arm-strength, location. So I hope he doesn’t come out over-throwing, as some of my younger guys have done, and think that the radar gun is what I’m looking at or is the barometer.”
Johnson hopes Wang will be able to go three innings today, but he’ll be on a hard pitch-limit of 60, if not lower.
“Coming off an injury, you don’t want to push that guy, although he feels like he’s healthy and doesn’t want to be treated any differently,” Johnson said. “But that’s just the way I would treat anybody who’s been through what he’s been through last year.”
The Nationals’ skipper reiterated today that he feels Wang is approaching the level that he showed at his peak in 2006 and 2007, seasons in which he won 19 games.
Wang made 11 starts for the Nationals toward the end of last season, and Johnson pushed for the team to re-sign the sinker-baller this offseason, even joking that he’d give up some of his own salary in order for the organization to be able to have more financial flexibility to bring Wang on board.
The team did bring back Wang on a one-year, $4 million deal (without taking Johnson up on his offer), and after a full offseason that allowed him to strengthen his surgically repaired shoulder, the righty has looked good early in spring.
“I knew that the work ethic that he was going to put forth after the season coming into spring, and what I saw at the end, I knew he was going to be up a notch or two,” Johnson said. “And it is, from day one. Last year he was 20, 25 percent below what he was when he was in his prime. What I’ve seen so far, he’s cut whatever that was, whatever number you want to put on that, he’s cut that in half. And ask me again the end of the spring where he’s at.