Through two starts and nine innings, Chien-Ming Wang has recorded two losses and an ERA of 6.00. Many of you, based upon phone calls to "Nats Talk Live" and e-mails I've received, have seen enough, and feel the ballclub should chalk another one up to experience, and just move on. But that's not how things like this work.
Between Independence Day 2009 and his start this past July 29, Wang underwent serious shoulder surgery and intensive rehabilitation. The Nationals signed him as a free agent prior to the 2010 season, knowing full well he might not make it back to the big leagues by season's end. They signed him again last winter, and he showed sufficient promise in six minor league starts that they brought him up to the big club once his allotted time on rehab was exhausted.
Wang's big league sample size is hardly big enough to decide whether or not he has a future with Washington. Has he pitched some clean innings? Have we seen flashes of the great heavy sinker that bores in on hitters? Does he have his old velocity? Yes, yes and for the most part, yes.
Admittedly, there have been some other issues regarding command. He's never been a big strikeout pitcher, and despite his throwing error against the Braves, was always a pretty solid fielder with the Yankees.
Look, the Nats have invested $3 million in Wang thus far, and were they in the thick if a pennant race, there wouldn't be any question that they'd find a way to keep him on the disabled list. They're not, however, and GM Mike Rizzo needs to see a much bigger sample size before deciding whether or not Wang is part of the picture for 2012. Wang feels a sense of obligation to the Nationals for sticking with him the past two years, and would like very much to justify their investment.
His next chance comes tomorrow night at Wrigley Field, against a Cubs team that's won seven of their last 10. The Cubs are a good offensive team, but their pitching staff has allowed 100 more runs than the Nationals' staff. After splitting four with the Rockies, the Nats hope to pick up some ground in Chicago before a day off and then three in Philadelphia.
Wang, barring a setback, will get another start at Citizen's Bank Park next weekend before the club comes home for a 10-game homestand. If it becomes painfully obvious that he can't compete, Wang will be the first to know.