HAGERSTOWN, Md. — It wasn’t quite Yankee Stadium or Nationals Park, but Chien-Ming Wang didn’t mind. He was just glad to be back on a pitcher’s mound Monday night.
The Washington Nationals’ right-hander pitched his first professional regular-season game in almost two years, an important milestone in his comeback from the right shoulder surgery he had in July 2009.
Wang threw 49 pitches over three innings in a rehab start for Class-A Hagerstown against Lakewood at Municipal Stadium. His fastball averaged in the mid-to-upper-80s and topped out at 90 mph.
“It’s been a while,” Wang said through a translator. “I feel happy and excited. I feel good.”
Wang surrendered two earned runs on four hits. He struck out three, walked none and hit a batter. The sinker-baller induced nine ground balls compared to two fly balls. Afterward, he admitted to being a bit nervous.
“First inning, he was trying to pump it a little bit,” catcher David Freitas said. “After that, he went back to what he does best, which is move it in and out.
“I thought every pitch was moving. He was hitting spots in and out. When he made a mistake, he corrected it. He was really good at spotting up, working in and out, and the ball was just running.”
Director of player development Doug Harris and director of minor league operations Marc Scialabba were among the Nationals brass in attendance. They determined in advance that Wang would pitch three innings.
“I think today was a big hurdle for him,” Harris said. “He hasn’t really pitched competitively in two years. I know he was really amped up for this outing. He had tremendous sink, and I think he started to have a better feel for his secondary stuff the deeper in the outing he went.”
The Nationals will decide the date and location of Wang’s next start after he throws a bullpen session later this week.
Washington signed Wang, 31, to a one-year, $2 million contract in February 2010, hoping he would recover from surgery in time to pitch later that year.
They non-tendered him after last season but re-signed him to an incentive-laden one-year, $1 million deal. Although Wang passed a physical before he originally signed with Washington, he still is trying to recapture the form that helped him win 38 games with the New York Yankees from 2006-07.
Hagerstown defeated Lakewood, 5-2.
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