Stakes high for Wang's next start

Stakes high for Wang's next start

BOSTON -- The Yankees will give Chien-Ming Wang one more chance to prove he belongs in the starting rotation, sending the struggling right-hander back to the mound on Wednesday against the Nationals.

That start, to take place at Yankee Stadium, comes with one major caveat. Wang is carrying a 14.34 ERA after losing to the Red Sox in his last outing, on Wednesday, and though the Yankees are trying to see positive signs, his chances are not unlimited.

"As I told him, it's important that he has a real good start," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He needs to show us that he's back and that he's fully back. At some point, production is important. We told him that it's a very important start."

Wang gave up four runs in 2 2/3 innings on Wednesday at Fenway Park, and he had New York's bullpen stirring as early as the first. While the Yankees saw some good sink on Wang's pitches, there was too much sink in a way, as his offerings dipped below the zone and he threw just 39 of 69 pitches for strikes.

"I'm not getting ahead with strike one," Wang said. "I'm behind hitters. I have to try and bring the sinker a little bit up at the knees. Some pitches, I cut off."

After the Yankees told Wang to ease off his regular training regimen during Spring Training so as not to aggravate his right foot injury suffered last June, he was diagnosed with weakness in the abductor muscles of both hips and spent time on the disabled list while rehabbing in Tampa, Fla.

Wang made two appearances as a reliever after rejoining the Yankees, hurling eight innings of two-run ball against the Rangers and Indians to earn another chance in the rotation.

"We see it in the bullpen -- that part of it is fine," Girardi said.

But Wang's results on Wednesday were all too familiar -- he is 0-4 with a 21.60 ERA in five starts this year, and pitching coach Dave Eiland expressed frustration that Wang is not taking his sound bullpen mechanics out to the mound.

Girardi said he needed to sleep on the decision of letting Wang pitch again, which he reached by reviewing video and speaking with general manager Brian Cashman and catcher Jorge Posada. After Wednesday's game, Posada opined that he thought Wang was close.

"I'll say it again -- I don't believe the man has forgotten how to pitch," Girardi said. "You win 46 games in 2 1/2 years, you're a good pitcher. That is not an accident. His velocity is back. We feel that he's healthy."

The Yankees shifted Wang's start against the Nationals from Tuesday to Wednesday because his wife, Chia-Ling Wu, is in New Jersey preparing to give birth to the couple's first child, a boy. Labor is expected to be induced on Tuesday, and Wang said he would be ready to pitch despite the event.

"I imagine he'll be a little exhausted from going through it," Girardi said. "It's quite an emotional day."

Girardi said that it was not difficult to tell Wang that his time in the rotation might be up if he struggles against the Nationals.

"This is not a developmental league, so it's important that you step up," Girardi said. "I want to be fully honest with the players, and we expect him to be himself."

Speaking after the Yankees completed batting practice at Fenway Park, Wang said he understood Girardi's message and was thankful for one more chance.

"I try to not think too much and go out and pitch," Wang said. "There's only one thing -- to go out and pitch."

In other updates, right-hander Brian Bruney (right elbow) threw 25 pitches of batting practice to Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena on Wednesday in Boston and will pitch in a rehab game on Saturday for Double-A Trenton.

If that appearance goes well, the Yankees could activate Bruney in time for the beginning of their series with the Nationals on Tuesday.

"I didn't have any pain, which is what I was looking for," Bruney said. "Hopefully, they'll just go ahead and get me in a game. Let's just do it."

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