With the Washington Nationals needing a spot starter for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, manager Davey Johnson tabbed Chien-Ming Wang for the assignment.
Because rain washed away their game on Tuesday against the Dodgers, the Nationals were reluctant to bring back any of their pitchers on short rest after a doubleheader Wednesday. Johnson had been deciding between Craig Stammen and Wang for the start, but ultimately chose Wang, who relieved in Wednesday’s game.
“I liked the way Chien-Ming Wang threw (Wednesday),” Johnson said. “He had good sink… I like what he’s all about and I like his competitiveness. He’s been in big games and to me all these are big games. I think he’ll do a good job on Sunday. I told him first thing when I saw him today.”
It will be Wang’s first major league start since June 19, a fact that exemplifies just how awry this season has gone for him.
The Nationals had penciled Wang into their starting rotation during spring training, impressed with the way the veteran sinkerballer was performering. But a hamstring strain in mid-March ruined those plans and Wang never regained the effectiveness he’d found in spring.
A hip injury messed with his delivery and took him out of the Nationals’ major league plans from June 30 until rosters expanded and he made his first big league appearance since then on Wednesday night.
“He was a lot better,” Johnson said of Wang and his mechanics recently. “You saw the ground balls. (The Dodgers) have got some good left-handed hitters some hit the ball pretty hard.
“Milwuakee doesn’t have the luxury of those kind of left-handed hitters. They’re predominantly a right-handed hitting club. He also threw a couple good curveballs. I like who he is and he’s competitive. I don’t have any qualms at all.”
The other option for Johnson was to give Stammen the start. But that would make Stammen, who has been one of the Nationals’ most reliable relief options this season, unavailable for the three days before Sunday’s game and, likely, two or three days after it. Johnson didn’t want to shorten his top options that way.
“I really like the role that he’s in,” Johnson said. “He’s been invaluable in the role.”
The Nationals are unsure of how deep into the game Wang could take them, too, having not started since the end of the minor league season. But having Stammen there to back him up was an added bonus.