Chien Ming Wang had what has to be considered his best outing of the year yesterday. He pitched 3 scoreless innings, his stuff was sharp, he kept his 2 seamer down and threw plenty of strikes (28/42 66%). Ground ball-flyball ratio was 4-1, that’s vintage Wang right there. Wang himself said it was the best he’s felt since getting hurt last year. He reiterated his desire to be in the starting rotation, and said that he could pitch 80 pitches/5 innings if called upon to do so, and could do even more the next turn in the rotation.
So now we have a decision to make. Hughes has been solid, pitching outstanding in some of his starts and acceptable in others, including yesterday. What to do? First, lets dispose of the ‘Joba to the pen’ stuff right away. Its not happening, the manager and GM made that abundantly clear the other day. Now lets look at Hughes’ upcoming starts to see when you might want to pull the trigger on this if you think Wang is ready:
July 5th-Home vs The Rays
July 10th-vs Boston @ Fenway park
July 16th-Home vs the Nats
July 21st-vs The Mets @ Citifield
July 27th-vs The Marlins @ Florida
We don’t have any indication that Hughes won’t be making his next start, so Friday vs the Rays shouldn’t be an issue. Another reason to hold Wang back is the next two scheduled starts for Hughes are two very tough matchups for a guy who’s trying to get his feet back under him in the bigs. The Rays are #1 in the American League in Runs Scored and Boston has a history of killing Wang under normal circumstances, and these are anything but. Fenway park is tough for anyone, its not the kind of place you throw a guy you’re trying to build back up.
Even when Wang does come back, I think they’ll keep Hughes around to back him up, just in case he gets knocked out early again like he did in April. You could pitch Wang for 5 and have Hughes pitch 2-3 after until he builds up his arm strength, in what would be a role reversal of their current slots on the team. That could also serve to keep Hughes’ innings down a bit before they send him down to AAA.
I think the Yanks will want to wait until after the Interleague Play in the NL parks is finished before putting Wang back in the rotation full time. After all, that’s how he broke his foot last year, by running the bases playing in the NL parks. But that would mean he won’t be making a start until late June. If they want, they could start him Tuesday the 16th vs Washington at home, and then skip him the next turn and go with Hughes against the Marlins in Florida, then skip both of them the next time around with the off day on Monday. WASH is a good matchup for him to get his feet wet again in the bigs. But that’s screwing around a lot with both pitchers’ routines. We may just have to be patient and wait until Interleague is over.
My guess? They hold Wang in the bullpen until the end of the month. I would.
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