Chien-Ming Wang hit the ground running in his return from a serious foot injury last season. Luckily for the Yankees, this is simply a figure of speech and required no baserunning.
During an interleague game against these very Astros on June 15th of last year, Wang was injured while rounding third base. It was a setback that ultimately derailed the Yankees season.
Wang would not have to grab a bat or helmet on Monday, but he was once again able to toe a rubber in live action.
During a successful two-inning debut, Wang gave up two hits and zero runs. More importantly, he made it through the game without any discomfort.
By not walking a baserunner, he proved his control was not lost along with half of his 2008 season. By allowing four flyouts and only two groundouts, he showed his sinker still needs some adjustments.
As many superstars departed for the World Baseball Classic, it was unlikely that Wang would face high-quality competition.
However, the Astros lineup featured Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Hunter Pence. They combined for 82 home runs in 2008, and provided an excellent barometer for Wang’s comeback.
He did not allow an extra base hit over his two innings, showing that he was able to miss the sweet spots of the middle of the order.
Though he was bumped to the No. 2 starter role in order to split up the two Yankee flamethrowers, Wang is truly perceived as the No. 3.
Nevertheless, it is arguable that Wang is as important as any starter in the rotation going into 2009.
Due to his ability to pitch deep into games and limit pitch counts, Wang’s sinker could prove to be the second most important pitch of the Yankee rotation behind Rivera’s cutter.
If he is able to produce a rebound season in the range of 16-18 wins and a 3.75 ERA, the Yankees should be well on their way to another AL East title.
The next step would be to determine once and for all if Wang will ever be a dependable October performer.