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.
Wang was injured when he moved to his left to field a ground ball off the bat of New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin in the third inning of an exhibition game. His left leg appeared to buckle as he continued toward first base and took a nasty spill over the bag.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson and trainer Lee Kuntz popped out of the dugout immediately to evaluate Wang but everyone close to the play could quickly tell 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.
“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 Joe Girardi, his former manager with the Yankees, feared the worst when he came out of the dugout to check on Martin and discuss the play with the umpires.
“I think he tore his hamstring,” Girardi said. “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. He worked relentlessly for two years to return to the major leagues after surgery for a torn shoulder capsule and had been drawing rave reviews for his performance this spring.
“It [stinks],” left-hander John Lannan said. “He’s been throwing his butt off. It seems that he’s almost back. Hopefully there’s no setback.”
Wang was throwing 90-91 mph with his fastball Thursday in the 2 2/3 impressive innings he pitched before the injury — even hitting 93 mph once, Johnson said. Wang worked through the major league portion of the Yankees‘ travel lineup in convincing fashion.
Mixed results for Lannan
When the game began, Lannan had an idea of when he’d be making his first career relief appearance, taking over from Wang. But once Wang got hurt, a wrench was thrown into his plans. Chad Durbin came on to finish the third inning and pitch the fourth. Lannan handled innings five through eight with mixed results.
“I felt really good in the first two innings but something happened in that third and fourth,” Lannan said. “I just left the ball up. They weren’t getting solid contact but they were making enough contact to put it in the outfield and base hit me to death. … I just kind of got my work in but I wasn’t happy with it at all.”
Lannan allowed four earned runs off seven hits and one walk in four innings of work. He struck out two.