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Wang returns to Yanks, will work in relief

Wang returns to Yanks, will work in relief

NEW YORK -- A depleted bullpen prompted the Yankees to reconsider their position on Chien-Ming Wang, activating the right-hander on Friday as a long reliever for their three-game series against the Phillies at Yankee Stadium.

Wang had been scheduled to start on Friday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Pawtucket, but Thursday's on-field injury to Joba Chamberlain and a less-public situation with right-handed reliever Brian Bruney changed those plans, one night after the bullpen had to turn in 8 1/3 innings of work.

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"We need some distance, and we love the way [Wang] threw in the bullpen the other day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Right now, he's in the bullpen, and after that I can't tell you."

Chamberlain was drilled in the first inning Thursday by an Adam Jones line drive and was forced to exit two batters later with what on-site X-rays showed to be a bruised right knee.

Approximately 45 minutes before game time on Thursday, Bruney entered Girardi's office at Yankee Stadium and told him that the area around the flexor tendon in his pitching arm was again feeling tender.

Bruney was sent for a MRI on Friday, which came back "good," Girardi said. Bruney has been placed on anti-inflammatories and will not be available Friday against the Phillies; he missed 22 games with a similar injury and was reinstated from the disabled list on Tuesday.

"I tried to toughen up and pitch through it and be there for the guys on the team," Bruney said. "It shouldn't be [hurting] every day. Hopefully a couple days off and just the assurance in my head that nothing is wrong will be enough to get over that hump."

Girardi said that while the MRI results were encouraging, the fact that Bruney felt pain Thursday is a concern.

"There's a difference between pain and an ache, and that's something that only he can measure," Girardi said. "There is concern for us. Is this a guy that we might have to sit down for a while again? We're not sure. But he is down for a couple of days because of his MRI."

Wang was about 70 miles into his drive to Pawtucket when pitching coach Dave Eiland buzzed his cell phone, telling him to turn around and come back to New York.

Wang had a 34.50 ERA in three big league starts before going on the disabled list with weakness in the abductor muscles of both hips. After working out at the club's Minor League complex in Tampa, Fla., Wang threw 13 scoreless innings at Triple-A and looked sharp in a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium.

"Pitching as a whole, balance-wise, I feel much better," Wang said.

Girardi said that Wang's return does not necessarily change New York's pitching rotation -- Phil Hughes remains on line to pitch Monday at Texas and Chamberlain will follow him Tuesday if healthy. Chamberlain said that his knee made him more encouraged that he would be pitching against the Rangers.

"It's not comfortable, I just got hit with a baseball," Chamberlain said. "But it's not more than expected. It didn't swell and didn't bruise."

Wang has made two career relief appearances in the big leagues, the last coming on June 6, 2006, when manager Joe Torre called upon him to get the final two outs of a 10-inning, 6-5 victory against the Orioles in Baltimore.

"We have to be smart how we use him," Girardi said. "We have to give him plenty of time to warm up because it's not something he's used to doing."

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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