Chien-Ming Wang looked sharp during Spring Training before hurting his hamstring. With his return pending, he could provide an interesting option our of the bullpen for the Nationals. (Image Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE)

Chien-Ming Wang To The Bullpen Upon Return

Later this week the Washington Nationals are scheduled to receive some help on the pitching front, as Chien-Ming Wang is expected to be activated off the disabled list. The right-hander has been rehabbing from a strained hamstring suffered while covering first base during a Spring Training game in mid-March. His 30-day rehab assignment is slated to end by May 27 (Sunday).

Through five minor league starts (the last three of which have come at Triple-A), Wang is a combined 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA over 30.2 innings of work. He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, but he’s been keeping the walks to a minimum and has been showing the groundball-inducing form that helped him twice win 19 games as part of the Yankees rotation a few years ago (2006 and 2007). Injuries have slowed him since.

Wang has actually shown enough in these rehab appearances that by many accounts he’s generated some interest among rival organizations. Washington re-signed him early this past offseason to a one year, $4 Million deal. The move was made well before the team acquired Gio Gonzalez from Oakland and chose to tender John Lannan a contract, providing more depth than the organization may have originally anticipated. Now, even with teams seemingly interested in acquiring Wang’s services, the Nationals seem inclined to keep him around in order to maintain that depth.

At the time he first hurt himself, Wang was believed to be the favorite for the final spot in the starting rotation. Instead the spot ended up going to Ross Detwiler and the left-hander has flourished in the role since – posting a 3-3 record and 3.65 ERA through 8 starts (41.1 innings). As such, it seems Wang will head to the bullpen upon his return. He’s only made 5 appearances in his career out of the bullpen, even saving a game back during the 2006 season. It seems the Nationals may try to keep him stretched out, however, just in case he’s needed for a spot start.

With the innings limit Stephen Strasburg is facing, coupled with the fact that Jordan Zimmermann and Detwiler have never reached that 200+ inning level before, depth is likely to be needed by the time the 2012 season nears a close and the calendar turns to September. Wang may prove to be vital at that point in time, even though the chances of him being a part of the team’s future beyond this season appear slim at the current moment.

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