Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the majors might not be the same kind of event as, say, Stephen Strasburg’s debut. But when the right-hander makes his debut for the Nationals tonight, it will certainly have some significance.
Wang, of course, has won 19 games in the majors twice, the last time coming in 2007 for the Yankees. The Taiwanese pitcher is a major presence in China, and at least nine Taiwanese television stations will be on hand to chronicle his return to the mound tonight. That’s in addition to the New York media members who covered Wang with the Yankees and will do so again tonight when he faces the Mets.
For the Nationals, Wang’s return will begin to answer something of a lingering curiosity; they signed him in February 2010, expecting him to be back in the majors after shoulder surgery by the middle of the season. But he didn’t throw a competitive pitch last year, and was non-tendered by the team last December, re-signing with them for $1 million (plus incentives) after that move.
He is a free agent after the year, so the Nationals won’t have any control over him, but if he pitches well in the second half, they could look at bringing him back next year. He’ll only throw 80 to 90 pitches tonight, and because he had such extensive - and unprecedented - surgery, his sinker won’t have the same bite it did with the Yankees, when he would routinely sit around 93 mph. He’ll have a less effective sinker now, and he’ll have to rely more on off-speed pitches.
After waiting to see him on the mound for the better part of two seasons, the Nationals finally get a chance to start looking at some results tonight. And after a grueling rehab from shoulder surgery, Wang will once again be the center of attention.