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Wang's troubles not worrying Yanks

Wang's troubles not worrying Yanks

ST. PETERSBURG -- Now comes the investigative portion of the week, as the Yankees try to figure out why Chien-Ming Wang's dominant sinker appears in the bullpen, but not in games.

Wang suffered the worst pounding of his career on Monday at Tropicana Field, facing 12 batters and recording only three outs as the Rays got to him for eight runs in a 15-5 victory.

Pitching coach Dave Eiland said that Wang's troubles are especially confusing because he had made adjustments after lasting only 3 2/3 innings in an April 8 start at Baltimore, where he shelled for seven runs.

"Guys struggle," Eiland said. "The only way you're not going to struggle is if you don't go out there. It's just the way it is. That's part of the game. The Hall of Fame is loaded with guys who struggled and got knocked out in the first or second inning. He's going to get it, because it's there."

In layman's terms, Wang's major issue has been dragging his arm behind his body during his delivery, which forces a lot of his pitches to float up in the strike zone and takes away the devastating effect of his sinker.

"He's not finishing pitches physically like he should be," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "What that stems from, I can't exactly tell you. We know he's healthy and we know he's had some good sessions. We're trying to get to the bottom of it and address all the areas."

Eiland said it is not necessarily a new problem, pointing to Wang's two starts in the 2007 American League Division Series against the Indians, when he was 0-2 with a 19.06 ERA, losing Game 1 and Game 4.

"It was the same exact thing," Eiland said. "He got it last year in the middle of the year, and it was the same thing. He corrected it last year and had two real good starts before he got hurt.

"I thought he'd corrected it from what I saw in his side and his bullpen before the game yesterday. For whatever reason, it didn't translate into the game."

Eiland said that it is "very possible" the two bad outings may simply be an after-effect of a long layoff, noting that he worked very laboriously in Monday's start.

"He's holding the ball longer than he normally does, so that tells me he's doing a lot of thinking," Eiland said.

Wang was lost for the season on June 15 of last season to a right foot injury while running the bases at Houston, and though he competed in Spring Training, the big league atmosphere is a lot different than the Grapefruit League.

"If you get what you expect 27 out of 33 starts, it's not a problem," Girardi said. "The fact that he's had two bad ones right at the beginning is somewhat magnified. Everyone is going to say, 'What's wrong with Chien-Ming Wang?' We believe that he's going to turn it around. I don't think you forget how to pitch from last June."

Whatever is causing the discrepancy, Wang will have to correct it on center stage. With no off-days until April 23, the Yankees have no plans to skip Wang in the rotation. He is their scheduled starter for Saturday at Yankee Stadium against Cleveland, when they will hope for better results.

"I think he's a little chapped about what's went on so far," Girardi said. "It's what you'd expect from any player. He doesn't enjoy what went on so far, and I can completely understand that."

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

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