Wang happy to be back where he started
Righty had 19-win seasons for Yankees in 2006-07, believes he can be effective again
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tugging on a Yankees cap, Chien-Ming Wang said on Monday that it felt just like old times to go through the paces of a workout at the club's Minor League complex.
Wang returned to the Yankees last week, having shown enough promise during his World Baseball Classic stint with Chinese Taipei to warrant a Minor League contract. He is expected to start the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
"It's like back in the day," Wang said through an interpreter. "This was my first team. This is where I started. I feel great."
Wang played catch and took fielding practice at the club's Himes Avenue complex across the highway from George M. Steinbrenner Field.
He expects to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday, and he said he selected the Yankees from a group of "four or five" interested clubs, all of whom offered Minor League deals.
"It was an easy decision for me, because I never wanted to leave," Wang said.
Wang, who will turn 33 on March 31, was 55-26 with a 4.16 ERA in 109 games (104 starts) with the Yankees from 2005-09, including back-to-back 19-victory seasons in 2006 and '07. His 46 wins from 2006-08 were tied for the third most among all American League pitchers, trailing only Roy Halladay (52) and Josh Beckett (48).
His career was derailed when he injured his right foot running the bases in a June 2008 Interleague game against the Astros in Houston.
After struggling through an injury-marred 2009 with the Yankees, going 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA, Wang missed all of 2010 with the Nationals while recovering from right shoulder surgery before resurfacing in the big leagues in 2011. He went 6-6 with a 4.94 ERA in 21 games (16 starts) with Washington in 2011-12.
"He was a very good pitcher for the New York Yankees," manager Joe Girardi said last week. "It's unfortunate that he's had some injuries that have cost him. He was really good."
Wang made two starts for Chinese Taipei during the 2013 Classic, logging a victory and holding opponents scoreless over 12 innings. He said that his health is "much better" this year, and that he looks forward to pitching every fifth day in a rotation.
He represents a depth acquisition for the Yankees, who project to have CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, David Phelps and Ivan Nova in their rotation to open the season. Phil Hughes is expected to join the group for the second turn through the rotation, taking the spot of either Nova or Phelps.
Wang said that his phone buzzed with some familiar numbers when his deal with the Yankees was officially announced.
"That day, Joba [Chamberlain] and Pettitte called me," Wang said. "They said, 'Welcome back.'"