VIERA, Fla. — Tomorrow will mark one-week since Chien-Ming Wang took a nasty fall over the first base bag and severely strained his left hamstring. It’s also the day Wang said he plans to play some light catch for the first time since the injury occurred.
But Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Wednesday that he was doubtful Wang would return to the mound within three weeks to a month, doubling the two-week estimate that the trainers gave initially. Johnson saw Wang in the training room on Wednesday and said there was a lot of bleeding in the injured area, a deep bruise that had spread in each direction on Wang’s leg.
“I think they’re being optimistic, two weeks,” Johnson said. “He’s got a lot of bleeding in there. I think he’s moving around, walking good, but from what I saw today, he’s got quite a bit of blood in there.
“I’d say, before he gets on a mound, he’s going to need three weeks or maybe a month.”
Johnson followed up his estimate by saying that he’d have to check with the Nationals’ doctors on that prognosis but knowing what he did about hamstring strains and combining that with what he saw, the manager was concerned enough to figure that Wang would not be ready to be in the Nationals’ rotation when they have to set the 25-man roster for Opening Day.
“I was surprised at all the bleeding,” Johnson said. “Maybe it’s more of a bruise, but usually when you pull your hammy and it bleeds like that, it’s very serious.”
Wang may still be allowed to play catch on Thursday from flat ground but Johnson noted there’s a big difference between some light tossing to keep his shoulder loose and throwing off a mound and the pressure that puts on your legs. Given Wang’s injury history, the Nationals — who are proceeding carefully with all of their spring training injuries — will be extra careful as they bring him along, so as not to jeopardize the work he did in the last few years to come back from shoulder surgery.
“He’s too valuable to come back in two weeks and start throwing,” Johnson said. “Maybe he could throw, but I don’t see him getting on a mound.”
Wang said Tuesday that he was feeling “much better.”
But until Wang makes enough significant progress that the Nationals can put a concrete timetable on his return, John Lannan will continue to prepare to be the team’s fifth starter.
Lannan has been the subject of trade rumors all spring — and even before the spring officially commenced — and the Nationals could still opt to move him and go with Ross Detwiler in the rotation if they feel so inclined. But with Wang’s injury the chances of Lannan moving decreased immensely and if he continues to make progress on the mound, his spot in the Nationals’ rotation will be solidified, at least for the start of the season.
Lannan threw four innings on 79 pitches Wednesday, holding the Atlanta Braves scoreless in an eventual 3-2 loss in 10 innings. Lannan got more ground outs on Wednesday than he did in his previous outing — a mixed bag against the New York Yankees — but he came away feeling like there was still more to work on as he rounds into shape before his first regular-season start.
“There’s still stuff I should work on,” Lannan said. “My typical spring training is that I get out of the gate really fast. But now it’s the opposite. I’m progressing in a manner where I start off pretty slow and I’m getting to the point where, before Opening Day, I’ll reach the point where I need to be.”
Right now, where he projects to be is the No. 5 spot in the Nationals’ rotation.