Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Wang back with team he ‘never wanted to leave’

Staff writer, with CNA, TAMPA, Florida

Taiwanese pitcher Wang Chien-ming began training with the New York Yankees on Monday, thrilled to rejoin the team with which he had his greatest success.

Wang said he attracted interest from “four or five” Major League clubs, all offering minor league deals, after pitching 12 scoreless innings in the World Baseball Classic, but he only had the Yankees in mind.

“It was an easy decision for me, because I never wanted to leave,” Wang said. “It feels like returning to old times. The Yankees were my first team, where my baseball career got started. I feel great.”

Donning a Yankee jersey and cap, Wang showed up at the club’s Himes Avenue complex at about 8:30am on Monday and worked out for about 45 minutes in front of media from New York, Taiwan and Japan. The 32-year-old, trying to regain a spot in a Major League rotation after four-and-a-half injury-marred seasons, spent most of the time stretching, playing catch and fielding grounders.

“I’m really happy to be back because I’m pretty familiar with the players and coaches. It will be easier for me to get into the swing of things,” he said.

Wang said he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today, and has set an initial goal of 35 pitches before gradually increasing his workload.

“I’m not thinking of when I can return to the major leagues right now. I’m concentrating on what happens on the field and hope to get myself into game shape quickly,” Wang said.

Under the right-hander’s one-year contract with Yankees, Wang will earn US$30,000 a month in the minors, where he is expected to start the season. His annual salary will rise to US$2.5 million if he is called up to the major leagues, and he could add US$2.2 million in incentives for starts and innings pitched.

However, the contract also includes an opt-out clause, allowing Wang to become a free agent if he is not put on the Yankees’ 25-man roster prior to April 30, May 31, June 30 and Aug. 10 and Aug. 31.

He led the Yankees with back-to-back 19-win seasons in 2006 and 2007, and had a 55-26 record and a 4.16 ERA with the club from 2005 to 2009. His downfall began when he suffered a foot injury running the bases against the Houston Astros in June 2008, and his first stint with the Yankees ended in 2009 when shoulder woes left him ineffective and eventually required surgery.

He spent the past three years with the Washington Nationals, sitting out 2010 while recovering from shoulder surgery, and then going 6-6 with a 4.94 ERA in 21 games (16 starts) in 2011 and last year as injuries continued to hold him back.

“He was a very good pitcher for the New York Yankees,” manager Joe Girardi said when Wang signed with the Yankees last week. “It’s unfortunate that he’s had some injuries that have cost him. He was really good.”

For Wang to return to the major leagues with the Yankees, he will have to crack a starting rotation that currently consists of C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, David Phelps and Ivan Nova.

Phil Hughes is expected to replace either Phelps or Nova sometime next month.

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