"He's one of the guys we counted on," said pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, whose staff was ravaged by injuries for most of the season. "So this was quite a blow and quite a shock."
Such injuries usually require surgery and one month of rehab. Wang, however, did not undergo surgery. He worked his way back.
"One-hundred percent," Wang said Tuesday before Game 1.
Before being placed on the DL, Wang, a rookie who was called up from Triple-A Columbus on April 27, was 6-3 with a 3.89 ERA. He wasn't quite as sharp upon his return, going 2-2 with a 4.36 ERA in five September starts, but he clearly earned the trust of manager Joe Torre.
"He seems to have re-established himself as the pitcher he was before he got hurt," Torre said. "That was the thing that carried the most weight."
Yankees righty Shawn Chacon, however, pitched better than Wang down the stretch, going 4-1 with a 2.23 ERA in five September starts. And unlike Wang, Chacon has faced the Angels, holding them to an unearned run on four hits over six innings in Anaheim on July 30.
Chacon is the scheduled starter for New York if the series goes to Game 4.
New York catcher Jorge Posada suggested that the Halos' unfamiliarity with Wang could be a good thing.
"A lot of times the pitcher has the upper hand in that situation," Posada said Monday.
Posada also praised Wang's poise, and Torre followed suit, pointing to Wang's performance Friday night in the cauldron of emotion that was Fenway Park. Wang bounced back from early command problems -- he walked six -- and held the Red Sox to three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings.
"I think he can handle the stress," Torre said. "I thought he pitched well Friday night. ... Demeanor-wise, we don't think it's going to be a problem."
Wang isn't expecting to be overwhelmed Wednesday, either. Facing Vladimir Guerrero and staring down the Rally Monkey won't be easy, but neither was coming back from an injury that would have shut most pitchers down.
"I'm not nervous," Wang said. "Behind me [are] a lot of great players."