NEW YORK -- As the Yankees trotted to the first-base line before Wednesday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Chien-Ming Wang was part of the team once more, acknowledging the cheering crowd with mixed feelings.
Out of action since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in late July, this season was a lost one for Wang, who now faces an uncertain future. His preference would be to stay with the Yankees beyond 2009, but he knows as well as anyone that nothing is guaranteed.
"I was happy I heard some fans cheer for me, and it's good to go out there," Wang said through an interpreter. "Hopefully I will be here next year."
Wang was among the Major Leagues' most reliable pitchers over the past three seasons, using a heavy sinker to compile 46 victories since the beginning of the 2006 season.
That all changed in June 2008, when Wang injured his right foot running the bases during an Interleague game in Houston, altering the course of his career. Perhaps compensating for that previous injury, Wang's mechanics never were right this season and he finished 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA in 12 appearances (nine starts).
Noted sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who performed Wang's surgery, has cleared him to begin soft tissue rehabilitation in New York, and the pitcher said his recovery is going well.
Wang will be permitted to begin picking up a baseball in approximately two months, and will only be light-tossing by the beginning of Spring Training. The Yankees have estimated that Wang could be back on a Major League mound in July.
It is uncertain if that will be with the Yankees, who are likely to non-tender the pitcher this offseason with the idea of re-signing him to a less lucrative contract. Wang said that he is not thinking about the possibility of pitching elsewhere in 2010.
"I don't know what will happen in the future," Wang said. "I'm just waiting to see. ... I can't worry about it. Right now I'm just focusing on rehab and getting healthy."
Wang watched the Yankees' Game 1 victory over the Twins on Wednesday from the bench along with outfielder Xavier Nady, who was the Bombers' Opening Day right fielder but was lost to season-ending Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow.
"It's weird. It's disappointing," Wang said. "I hate to watch from the dugout. I just wish I could pitch. I just want to be part of the team."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.