Wang's start could be turning point

Wang's start could be turning point

NEW YORK -- It is virtually impossible for Chien-Ming Wang to have a better day on Wednesday than he did on Tuesday. The Yankees just hope he comes close.

Wang and his wife, Chia-Ling Wu, had their first child Tuesday morning. Justin Jesse Wang was born healthy in a New York City hospital at seven pounds, 12 ounces. On Wednesday, Wang will start against the Nationals in an outing that will likely decide his fate in the Yankees' rotation.

"I expect another big day from him," manager Joe Girardi said. "I expect him to have his good sinker [Wednesday] and throw more strikes. Don't get in long counts. We need to see a little more of that, and if he does that, I think he'll have a good day."

If he doesn't, the Yankees will likely have a decision to make on Wang's foreseeable future. In two starts since rejoining the staff on June 4, Wang has allowed nine earned runs in 7 1/3 innings (11.05 ERA) and has not looked much better than he did at the beginning of the year. On the season, Wang is 0-4 with a 14.34 ERA in eight appearances (five starts).

He showed signs of potentially snapping out of his funk on June 10 against the Red Sox. Though Wang lasted just 2 2/3 innings and surrendered four runs, his patented sinkerball had more movement than it had all year and his velocity touched 95 mph -- where it was when Wang won 19 games in both 2006 and '07.

"It's a little bit more mechanics than anything," catcher Jorge Posada said after that start in Boston. "His mechanics are a little messed up right now. That's all I see. I still trust the guy; I still fight for the guy. I know he's going to turn it around."

Perhaps facing the Nationals is exactly what Wang needs. General manager Brian Cashman said over the weekend that Wang might be suffering from a lack of confidence, because his stuff seems to be there. He was encouraged by Wang's velocity and movement at Fenway Park and hopes Wang can parlay that into a strong start on Wednesday.

At 16-46, Washington is on pace to have one of the worst seasons in baseball history, and a good game could boost Wang's self-esteem and spark a resurgence.

"We need Chien-Ming Wang," Cashman said. "This is an important step. We know what he's capable of. The velocity and the sink are there. Maybe his confidence isn't there."

Girardi would not definitively say Wednesday is Wang's final opportunity to prove himself, but it seems the Yankees are quickly running out of patience.

Phil Hughes has given up just two runs in 5 2/3 innings since being moved to the bullpen to make room for Wang in the rotation and is itching for a chance to move back into the staff. If Wang struggles again, it is possible Hughes would start in Wang's place next time through the rotation.

In his past four starts prior since being converted into a reliever, Hughes was 2-0 with a 3.91 ERA. Wang has not lasted more than 4 2/3 frames in any of his outings this year.

"Clearly, our bullpen and our team can't continue to deal with this issue," Cashman said, "especially when we have someone who can do the job better."

Wang was not at Yankee Stadium for his team's 5-3 win over Washington on Tuesday, instead spending the evening with his wife and newborn son. He was at the ballpark around 9:30 a.m. ET to do his usual pre-start throwing and running routine and was given the rest of the day off.

When he returns on Wednesday, there will be waiting for him at his locker a giant bundle of "It's a Boy!" balloons and a large gift basket filled with Yankees-themed baby paraphernalia. Girardi said Wang will also have Thursday to be with his family.

"A lot of times babies have the ability to somewhat relax you, in a sense," Girardi said. "You spend every minute that you're not in a game thinking about your baby and your wife because you're so excited. It's got to be a very enjoyable time for him and his wife, and I'm very happy for him."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (0-4, 14.34 ERA)
This is a pivotal start for Wang, as the Yankees are allowing him one more try to prove that he belongs in a big league rotation. They didn't think much of his last effort, when he lasted only 2 2/3 innings on Wednesday at Fenway Park and took the loss, allowing four runs on six hits while walking three and striking out three. The problems have varied, but in basic terms, pitching coach Dave Eiland is befuddled that Wang's arm slot keeps changing and he isn't able to take his good bullpen sessions out to the mound. Wang has not faced Washington since 2006.

WSH: LHP John Lannan (3-5, 3.51 ERA)
Thursday was another solid start for Lannan, who went six innings, allowing five hits and two runs (one earned) against Cincinnati. Lannan trailed, 2-0, upon exiting the game, but the Nationals took the lead in the eighth inning to get him off the hook. It was the first of five Lannan no-decisions that the Nationals have won this season. "John is just doing what he did last year, going out every five days, giving us a chance to win," manager Manny Acta said.

Tidbits
Injured outfielder Xavier Nady will return to Tampa, Fla., to continue rehabbing his right elbow. Girardi said it is "unlikely" Nady will rejoin the Yankees on their upcoming road trip to Florida, Atlanta and New York. ... Catcher Jose Molina will also head to Tampa to begin playing in rehab games. ... Girardi said is leaning toward not starting Hideki Matsui in the outfield in National League ballparks this weekend, but would consider using him in double-switch situations.

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Up next
• Thursday: Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 3-1, 3.84) vs. Nationals (Craig Stammen, 0-2, 5.86), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 6-3, 4.52) at Marlins (Sean West, 2-1, 3.00), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (A.J. Burnett, 5-3, 4.46) at Marlins (Josh Johnson, 6-1, 2.76), 7:10 p.m. ET

Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.