Notes: Wang throws, making progress

Notes: Wang throwing, making progress

TORONTO -- Chien-Ming Wang made some progress in his throwing program this week in Tampa, playing catch on flat ground for three consecutive days as he rehabs his injured right shoulder.

Wang threw on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and after taking Sunday off, the 25-year-old will throw again on Monday, possibly off a mound.

Manager Joe Torre believes that it is realistic that Wang will return to the Yankees this season, as he has been able to throw without discomfort in his shoulder ever since he began throwing.

"Just the fact that he's thrown the ball three days in a row," said Torre, "I think that's good."

Wang was one of the Yankees' most consistent pitchers in the first half, as he helped fill the void left by Jaret Wright's shoulder injury. Wang went 6-3 with a 3.89 ERA in 13 games, but he informed the team during the All-Star break that his shoulder was injured.

Initial tests brought major concern to the Yankees, as it appeared that the young right-hander would likely need surgery, costing him the rest of the season.

A second opinion showed a slight tear in his rotator cuff, and the team decided to allow Wang to try to rehab the injury rather than to go under the knife.

Decisions, decisions: With Carl Pavano expected back next weekend following one last rehab start on Monday, the Yankees will have to decide which starter to remove from the rotation.

The choice appears to be between Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small, who have each pitched well in their limited time with the Yankees.

"I'm probably more apt to keep Chacon in the rotation, because I think Small will be able to handle the not pitching," said Torre, referring to the time in between outings for a long reliever. "He proved that last night. Experience-wise, he has more flexibility."

Small tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball on Friday night, despite the fact that he had not been in a game since July 28.

Should Pavano's start on Monday indeed be his last one, he would return to the rotation next weekend against Texas. Although Saturday would be his fifth day, that is also Mike Mussina's scheduled turn, so Torre would have to decide which pitcher would get an extra day of rest.

"That's Moose's day, but we can play with that," the manager said. "If Moose has a tough outing, we can always give him an extra day."

Reeling Robinson: Robinson Cano entered Saturday's game mired in a 3-for-32 slump, but his 0-for-4 night on Friday showed Torre something about the rookie's ability to handle it.

After striking out in the first against southpaw Gustavo Chacin, Cano hit two solid shots to right field and a liner to second base, all of which were caught. The second flyout scored a run for the Yankees.

"He struck out on a high changeup the first time up," Torre said. "But after that, he hit the ball right on the nose every time."

Friday night's hitless performance snapped a 20-game road hitting streak for Cano. Despite his current slump, Cano doesn't appear to be any different at the plate, which is the only thing Torre and his coaching staff looks for in a situation like this.

"We talk to him all the time," Torre said. "We just want to make sure that he doesn't get distracted by anything, good or bad. If we see that he doesn't look comfortable at the plate, we'd address it. He looked very good last night."

Sunday "off-day" for Sheff: Gary Sheffield will get what Torre likes to call a "half day off" on Sunday, as the right fielder will serve as the Yankees' DH in the series finale against the Blue Jays.

Torre said that either Tony Womack or Bubba Crosby would get the start in right field.

The manager said that he has not talked to Sheffield about the latest controversy, this one involving a New York magazine article, and as long as he doesn't see it having an impact on the clubhouse, he doesn't plan to.

"We've had several conversations about other things. I haven't really asked him about it," Torre said. "Last night, I saw [Derek] Jeter and Sheff go out to dinner. My only concern is if he's alienated from the rest of the team, and I don't see that happening."

Sheffield wasn't affected by the controversy, as he hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat on Friday to give the Yankees an early lead.

"He's unique," Torre said. "Whether it spurs him on or not, he certainly has never lacked the ability to handle the heat."

Climbing the charts: The Yankees' win on Friday night was the 945th of Torre's managerial career with the club, moving him past Ralph Houk for fourth place on the team's all-time list.

Torre, who ranks 13th on baseball's all-time list with 1,839 victories, trails only Joe McCarthy (1,460), Casey Stengel (1,149) and Miller Huggins (1,067) in Yankees history.

"That's good company," Torre said of passing Houk. "Before he was a [heck] of a manager, he was a [heck] of a man. That's an accomplishment I really feel proud of."

On deck: The Yankees and Blue Jays close out their three-game series on Sunday at the Rogers Centre, as Al Leiter takes the mound against Josh Towers.

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.