Washington Nationals right-hander Chien-Ming Wang will throw a simulated game on Wednesday, the first time he’ll face live hitters since straining his left hamstring on March 15.
Wang, who has been in Viera, Fla., rehabbing since the Nationals’ season began, has been throwing off a mound since April 7. If all goes well the plan is for him to throw a second simulated game and then begin throwing in real games, whether in extending spring training or in rehab starts with the Nationals’ minor league affiliates.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Monday that he has little concern about Wang’s shoulder, which he spent two years rehabbing after 2009 surgery, when he does return. It’s simply a matter of Wang building up the stamina to be able to throw five or six innings.
“I liked where his arm was at and (in spring training) I thought two or three more starts it was going to be really good,” Johnson said. “I would expect it being pretty dang good arm-strength wise. I’m more concerned about throwing the number of pitches, (and having the) endurance you need in your arm to be able to go five or six innings.”
When Wang is ready to be activated, it will mean the Nationals will have a difficult roster decision to make. Most likely, one of Craig Stammen or Ryan Mattheus will be optioned to the minor leagues to clear the way for Wang on the Nationals’ roster and Ross Detwiler will return to the bullpen to make room for Wang in the rotation.
Johnson has been thrilled with the work of Stammen, as well as Mattheus, this season and admitted it would be tough to lose any of those pitchers. In 7 2/3 inning, Stammen has struck out 10 and allowed just one earned run, picking up two victories for the Nationals’ in his long-relief role.
Asked if he thought there was a way to keep all of them on the roster, Johnson let out a defeated sigh.
“Probably not,” he said. “I know I’m not going to 13 pitchers.”