Yanks hope Wang can return by Sept. 1

Yanks hope for Wang return Sept. 1

NEW YORK -- One day after the Yankees' worst fears were confirmed, Chien-Ming Wang hobbled around the clubhouse prior to the series opener against the San Diego Padres, gingerly becoming acquainted with the crutches he'll keep by his side into July.

The diagnosis given on Monday in New York -- a mid-foot sprain of the Lisfranc ligament and a partial tear of the peroneal longus tendon of the right foot -- puts Wang in a soft cast or walking boot for at least six weeks. From there, he'll have to resume a throwing program, putting the Yankees' optimistic estimate for Wang's return to the big leagues at Sept. 1.

"I'll try to come back early," Wang said.

Wang suffered the injury running the bases in the sixth inning of Sunday's 13-0 Yankees victory over the Houston Astros. Playing under National League rules at Minute Maid Park, Wang had reached base on a fielder's choice -- actually, a botched sacrifice bunt -- and was sent home by third-base coach Bobby Meacham to score on Derek Jeter's two-run single to right field.

Wang made it without a throw, scoring New York's fifth run of the game, but he was hobbled, feeling a pop and a loose sensation in his right foot as he passed Meacham and landed hard on the grass up the third-base line.

"I just hoped it wasn't a break in the bone, so I could get back to the field soon," Wang said.

Yankees team physician Dr. Stuart Hershon and Dr. Justin Greisberg, a foot and ankle specialist, said otherwise. The club placed Wang on the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday's game, recalling left-handed reliever Billy Traber from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

With a little less than 48 hours to swallow his situation, Wang said the physical pain had subsided somewhat. He kept an optimistic view, hoping to regain his recent form once he does return and planning to lift weights to keep his pitching shoulder in shape. But his eyes told the whole story.

"[I'm] sad," he said.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he spoke to Wang as the hurler was receiving ice treatment before Tuesday's game.

"His spirits seemed pretty good," Girardi said. "I'm sure he's hurting inside, because he didn't want to sit down until Sept. 1. He'll find a way to deal with it, and we'll find a way to deal with it. We'll encourage him to hurry up and see how it goes."

Losing Wang could be a crushing hit for the Yankees, who have won four in a row going into Tuesday's game to reach a season-high four games over .500.

The Yankees have named journeyman Dan Giese as Saturday's starter against the Cincinnati Reds. While the organization is high on how Giese has performed in a limited role as New York's long reliever, it will be difficult for anyone to approach the success Wang has had over the last two-plus seasons.

"He's a strike thrower and he's not going to beat himself," Girardi said. "But you're talking about replacing a guy that had 46 wins in the last two years and two months. There aren't a lot of people that have done that. That's hard to replace, but we have to do it."

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said that losing Wang is a tough blow, but said that the team can't begin to feel sorry for itself.

"Other teams aren't going to feel sorry for us, so we have to go out there," Jeter said. "Whoever steps in for him is going to have to do a good job. That's the only way you can look at it. You can't sit around and say, 'What if he was here?' We're going to miss him and everyone understands that, but we have to get through this period without him."

General manager Brian Cashman said that he believes the estimate of having Wang out of the cast or boot in six weeks and pitching by Sept. 1 is a combination of both realistic and hopeful.

"If everything goes right, he should be back," Cashman said. "But this stuff is an inexact science, and everyone is different as far as how they respond to the healing process. We just hope it goes the way we hope it can."

As news of Wang's injury made the rounds, Wang said he heard from former Yankees third-base coach Larry Bowa, who sent a text message. Former pitching coach Ron Guidry also drew a chuckle, telling Wang via telephone: "You can pitch, but you can't run."

The run scored was the first of Wang's professional career. He did see some validity in what Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press on Tuesday, suggesting that a universal designated hitter should be considered for both the American and National Leagues.

Wang said that the DH is "good for pitchers," but with NL acceptance unlikely to occur, Wang said he had a better plan for the next time he'd have to run the bases.

"Next time, slower," Wang said.

Girardi likened Wang's prospective late-season return to a comparable circumstance the Yankees endured in 1996, when right-hander David Cone was diagnosed with an aneurysm in his pitching arm, forcing him to miss most of the season.

Cone returned to the Yankees and pitched seven no-hit innings in his first start back against the Oakland Athletics before having to leave due to a pitch-count restriction, and he helped the Yankees secure the World Series that fall by defeating the Atlanta Braves.

"The guys that replaced him weren't David Cone, but we got David Cone back around Sept. 1, and things were pretty good after that," Girardi said.

Cashman said he remains optimistic that the Yankees can continue to piece together a hot run toward the upper crust of the AL East even without their wins leader of the past two years.

"I still believe that possibility is there," Cashman said. "We've been waiting on the offense to get going, and we've been waiting on our starting rotation to settle in, and waiting on people to emerge out of the bullpen. Some question marks get answered and then another one shows up somewhere else. That's just the ebb and flow of the season. You've got to deal with it."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.