VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals right-hander Chien-Ming Wang was sent for more tests on his strained left hamstring Thursday afternoon while the rest of the Nationals were left to wait and hope for the best for their teammate.
Wang was injured Thursday when he moved to his left to field a ground ball off the bat of New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin but his left leg appeared to buckle as he continued toward the first base bag and he took a nasty spill over the base.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson and trainer Lee Kuntz popped out of the dugout immediately to evaluate Wang but everyone close to the play could tell fairly quickly that there was something significantly wrong with the Taiwanese sinkerballer.
“I asked him if he was all right,” Martin said. “He kind of shook his head like, ‘I’m not feeling too good.’ He was limping pretty good.”
Nationals first baseman Chad Tracy moved to his right in case the ball went past Wang. But the play, as they practice it, in that situation is for Wang to do what he did: field the ball and continue running it over to the bag. Tracy said he could see Wang’s leg quivering from the pain as the 31-year-old was reluctant to put any weight on it. The Nationals pulled him from the game immediately.
“When that left leg kind of hyperextended I knew there was a problem,” Johnson said. “I just watched him getting up, I saw him limping and I knew he was done. Hopefully it’s not serious.”
The Nationals don’t expect to know anything more on Wang until at least Friday morning but his former manager feared the worst when he came out of the dugout to check on his own player and discuss the play with the umpires.
“I think he tore his hamstring,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “I just felt really bad for him.”
If there was one prevailing sentiment in a somber Nationals’ clubhouse it was that of all the pitchers for this to happen to, it was perhaps most unfortunate for it to be Wang, who worked relentlessly for two years under the Florida sun to return to the major leagues after undergoing surgery for a torn shoulder capsule.
“It (stinks),” said left-hander John Lannan. “He’s been throwing his butt off. It seems that he’s almost back. Hopefully there’s no setback… You’ve seen plays like that all the time. You really hope and pray that he didn’t do anything bad. There’s a lot of different things that can happen on that play. Hopefully he’s OK.”
Rehab was a long, arduous road that Wang finally reached the end of last July when he returned to the major leagues and increased his strength and effectiveness with each outing. The Nationals, who signed him to a $4 million, incentive-laden deal last November, were so impressed with Wang and how strong he looked this spring that he appeared to have the inside track on the Nationals’ No. 5 starter job.
He was throwing 90-91 mph with his fastball on Thursday in the 2 2/3 impressive innings he pitched before the injury, even hitting 93 mph once, Johnson said. He worked through the major league portion of the Yankees travel lineup in dominating fashion. But as grave as the situation appeared, everyone was in agreement that it may be one of the most difficult plays there is and Wang handled it in a textbook fashion. His hamstring just gave out.
“That’s probably one of the tougher plays there is,” Tracy said. “I saw him roll his ankle first and then when he made his next stride it looked like he hyperextended something. It all happened real fast. It didn’t look natural. It was just one of those in-betweeners.”