‘Pride of Taiwan’ jets into nation for visit

FIGHTING FIT::Wang Chien-ming said he hopes to be back to pitching form in April or May after a series of injuries over the past two years forced him onto the sidelines

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff Reporter

Sat, Nov 13, 2010 - Page 2

Injury-plagued Taiwanese baseball sensation Wang Chien-ming (王建民) told a press conference in Taipei yesterday that he might soon be able to pitch in the Major Leagues after what he called a “good recovery.”

The “Pride of Taiwan” greeted local media at a press conference in Taipei after landing at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on an early-morning flight.

Wang enjoyed back-to-back 19-win seasons with the New York Yankees in 2006 and 2007, before injuries took him out of the lineup. Once a candidate for the Cy Young award, Wang cut short his season in 2008 because of a torn Lisfranc ligament in his right foot.

Just when he thought he had recovered from the injury, more surgery — this time on his left shoulder — forced him to sit out a major part of last season.

Fans started paying more attention to the Washington Nationals after the team recruited Wang this year, then a free agent, on a US$2 million contract, though he has yet to make a single pitch for his new team.

Fans may have something to look forward to next season, however, as the Taiwanese pitcher said the healing process was going well.

“The doctor said I am able to throw again, but I need to make the muscles in the shoulder a bit stronger,” Wang said, adding that he considered 80 percent of his injury to have been treated and healed.

Although it was unlikely he could pitch in the season opener, as his pitching speed has yet to recuperate to major league levels — usually in excess of 150kph — Wang said he expects to be able to pitch in April or May.

Wang pitched in two games during instructional league action early last month, with his fastball clocking in at 142kph — positive news considering he had not pitched for almost 500 days.

“I haven’t experienced any soreness as of late and can’t wait to get back in the game,” he said.

Commenting on his physical rehabilitation, Wang said he felt bored most of the time as he -essentially repeated the same procedures day after day from 8am to 4pm.

“The only reason I do them is so that I can return to the baseball field one day,” Wang told a reporter who asked how he was coping with the difficult period.

Aside from physical rehab, Wang said watching his one-year-old son Justin Jesse Wang inspired him to persevere. Once in a while, he also went for a round of golf to release the stress.

Wang is scheduled to return to the US before spring training begins in February. A man of few words, Wang said he came back to Taiwan to spend time with his parents in Tainan and attend a charity event.

On the negotiations for his new contract with the Nationals next month, Wang said he believed things would work themselves out naturally and that he would leave this for his agent to handle.

“I have no preconceptions [about the contract],” he said. “I’ll find out what it is [next month].”