The New York Yankees sent their people out to Taichung, Taiwan to keep tabs on Chien-Ming Wang‘s progress in the World Baseball Classic tournament.
On Friday, what they saw was a star pitcher doing what he does best.
The former Cy Young award runner-up for New York was a veritable force in his first start for Chinese Taipei in the WBC, throwing six innings of four-hit shutout ball against the Australian squad en route to a 4-1 Taipei victory. The righty was sharp, throwing 42 of 64 pitches for strikes, walking no one while setting down a pair of batters with strikeouts.
If the Yankees’ interest were piqued before the tournament, you can bet they’re going to be taking a closer look now.
Sure, it’s not as though Australia is a team filled with MLB sluggers, but that Wang only allowed one baserunner to reach second base all day (on a wild pitch) was more than impressive. His sinker may not have been as good as it was in his prime, and the velocity was a little off, but it was enough to generate six groundouts to six flyouts.
That’s undoubtedly a number that the Yankees, among other teams, will continue to monitor as the tournament goes on, as Taipei now has a decent chance to advance out of a relatively weak group B (outside of Korea) to reach round two of the tournament.
If Wang is considering this to be the first of a series of MLB auditions, then he’s passed the first test with flying colors.
But why focus on the Yankees? Well, you can’t discount the history between the two, and you certainly can’t discount the fact that Wang may be an ideal candidate to solve the Bronx Bombers’ recent woes when it comes to their pitching staff, which sees Phil Hughes facing a setback that will likely cause him to miss Opening Day.
The 32-year old has that all-important AL East experience, and was a 30+ start, 200-inning man for almost two years in a row (he threw 199.1 in 2007) with the Yankees before a myriad of injuries derailed his career.
No reasonable team would expect him to be able to carry that workload now, but Wang’s first WBC start showed the kind of reliability on the mound the Yankees is looking for in the back end of their rotation, and if Taipei can go far enough to get Wang even just one more start like this, he can probably expect to get calls from a couple of MLB squads before Opening Day.