Taiwanese pitcher Wang Chien-ming’s comeback dreams collided squarely with reality yesterday when he was hit hard in a second straight start for the Toronto Blue Jays and let go by the big league club.
Wang, who was staked to an early 4-0 lead against the visiting Detroit Tigers, was pulled in the second inning after yielding six earned runs on seven hits while retiring only two hitters.
The performance was eerily similar to Wang’s previous start in Boston against the Red Sox, when he was battered for seven runs on six hits and two walks in the second inning of that game, and the Blue Jays decided they had seen enough.
The 33-year-old pitcher was designated for assignment after yesterday’s poor showing, but Toronto still wanted him to stay in the organization.
“He competes, he’s a real pro, and we like having him around,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after the Blue Jays’ 7-6 loss to the Tigers. “We hope he chooses to stay and pitch for us down there in Triple-A, with a shot to come back. He can choose to be a free agent if he wishes, but I’d love to have him around.”
Wang’s agent Alan Chang said the pitcher will play for Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, New York, and wait for another chance to be called up to the major leagues.
Wang, who has fought through debilitating injuries since 2008, but never regained the heights he reached before then with the New York Yankees, insisted there was nothing wrong with him physically.
“I’m just in a slump. I just need to pull myself out of it,” he said.
“I’ll probably just go [to Buffalo]. Because I can’t just give up like that,” the Taiwanese pitcher said before discussing his options with his agent after the game.
Wang’s major league career seemed over after the Washington Nationals did not re-sign him at the end of last season.
However, his 12 scoreless innings for Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic in March, including six against Japan, convinced the Yankees to sign him to a minor league contract.
He made nine starts for the Yankees’ Triple-A club, giving up one earned run or less in six of them, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman did not promote him to the big league roster, feeling that without the velocity he had in his heyday, Wang needed more time to broaden his arsenal.
Desperate for pitching help, the Blue Jays decided to give Wang a chance early last month, and Wang’s first start on June 11 coincided with the beginning of a 10-game Blue Jays winning streak.
For three starts, in which Wang pitched 20-2/3 innings and gave up only six earned runs, his comeback seemed to be on track, but after being pounded twice in two starts, he again faces the same uncertain future he has dealt with for most of the past five years.