NEW YORK -- Chien-Ming Wang began to get his arm loose on the field Sunday at Yankee Stadium, an unmistakable sign that offers the Yankees encouragement for 2009.
The club's winningest pitcher over the past two-plus seasons, Wang has been on the disabled list since sustaining a right foot injury while running the bases on June 15 at Houston. Wang was confined to a protective boot and crutches for a long period of time but has shed both, and he is on track to be healthy for Spring Training.
"He's just playing catch," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We probably won't see much more than that over the next couple of weeks, but it just shows you that his foot has improved a lot. That's the good thing."
Leaving Minute Maid Park on a motorized cart, Wang returned to New York that day in June and was diagnosed with a torn Lisfranc ligament and a partial tear of the peroneus longus of the right foot.
The club had maintained hope that Wang would be able to return sometime in late September or -- optimistically -- early October, but the recovery process was not as speedy as anticipated. He finished the season 8-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 15 starts, including a complete-game victory on April 11 at Fenway Park.
Many, including co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, pointed to Wang's injury as a major contributing factor to the near-certainty that the Yankees' run of 14 consecutive postseason appearances will come to an end on Sept. 28.
The club also played for extended stretches without right-hander Joba Chamberlain, catcher Jorge Posada and designated hitter Hideki Matsui.
"Where would we be if we weren't down two-thirds of our top three starting pitchers?" Steinbrenner said last week.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.