Chien-Ming Wang threw his first 74 pitches since re-joining the Yankees organization and was dominant, tossing 5.1 scoreless innings in his AAA debut. Scranton won the game over the Syracuse Chiefs, 5-3, fueled by home runs for Corban Joseph and Bobby Wilson, but it was the veteran starter who stole the show.
Wang surrendered six hits but walked nobody, struck out three and perhaps most telling, surrendered nine ground ball outs compared to just two in the air. In other words, it was a very similar start to Wang in his prime for the Yankees.
Wang used to be the most important starter in New York from 2006-2008. Providing important depth during a playoff run in 2005, Wang was the ace the next two years, winning 38 games combined during those campaigns, with both years leading to first round knockouts in the playoffs. In 2008, Wang was off to a terrific start and then injured himself running the bases in Houston during interleague play.
The Taiwanese right-hander has not been relevant since.
Now the Yankees have a full rotation. Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia have been dominant most of this young season and Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are both coming off of encouraging appearances. New York has two other starters, Adam Warren and David Phelps, who are Major League ready, and Michael Pineda, acquired in a trade for Jesus Montero two offseasons ago, is working his way back from elbow surgery. Pitchers like Brett Marshall are off to a slow start in AAA, but require very little seasoning before they either “sink or swim”.
With eight or nine viable starters, New York is not lacking starting depth, even if one of them provides insurance out of the bullpen all season as a long reliever.
However, if Wang can rediscover the power sinker, the pitch he used as an elite AL East pitcher five years ago, he could provide important front-end depth in the event one of Pettitte, Kuroda or Sabathia was hurt. Of course, if Wang demonstrates he is fully healthy and is effective at the major league level (if he gets a shot), he could provide starting insurance in the event Kuroda or Pettitte retires, or Hughes walks as a free agent this offseason.
Regardless, the former Yankees’ ace took a huge step forward in working his way back into a major league career. His sinker will be the key to his rise.