Notes: Wang back with Yankees
Pavano back, but not how he wants; Vento finally in Show
NEW YORK -- Chien-Ming Wang was back with the Yankees on Tuesday, his future role unclear but his right arm ready for whatever September might hold.
The 25-year-old right-hander was activated from the 15-day disabled list, one of four players added to the club's depth as rosters continue to expand this month.
"Same as before," Wang said, evaluating his health. "No pain."
He also won't waste any time getting right back in the mix, as manager Joe Torre tabbed the rookie to start Thursday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
When Wang went down on July 13 with right shoulder inflammation, some feared that the promising rookie's season could be over. One of the unlikely pillars of the Yankees' rotation in the first half, Wang was 6-3 with a 3.89 ERA in 13 games (12 starts), helping hold down the fort as a number of kinks in the pitching staff were worked out.
Season-ending surgery was floated as a possibility at the time. But a second opinion of rest and rehabilitation at the Yankees complex in Tampa, Fla., seemed like the much better option, given the situation and the team's ongoing need for pitching.
It paid off, as September arrived in the Bronx and so did Wang, looking and sounding as though nothing had changed from midsummer.
"I'm not sure which was the bigger surprise -- that he's pitching again or the fact he went down," Torre said. "I think that shocked everybody."
Before Thursday's assignment was decided upon, Wang said he would be open to the idea of pitching out of the bullpen, needing only 20 to 25 pitches to get loose.
But Torre -- given a trio of choices between Wang, Al Leiter and Aaron Small -- tabbed Wang as Thursday's starting pitcher. Small will start Friday against the Red Sox.
Earlier, Torre said he wouldn't discount Wang's ability to be a swingman of sorts, showing the ability to relieve as well as start.
"I don't think it would be a problem for him," Torre said. "We don't hesitate putting him out there in whatever capacity."
In other moves announced Tuesday, the Yankees recalled infielder Felix Escalona and right-hander Scott Proctor from Triple-A Columbus, and also purchased the contract of outfielder Mike Vento from Columbus.
To make room for Vento on the Yankees' 40-man roster, right-hander Sam Marsonek was designated for assignment.
Pavano returns: Carl Pavano came back to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, latching on with the Bombers for the remainder of the season.
Pavano, who was tranferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 30 with tendinitis in his right rotator cuff, is now resigned to the fact that he won't be returning to a mound this year.
"He's here just to cheer us on," Torre said. "The only thing we can do is give him pom-poms right now. He's not able to do a whole lot, but he's had a very frustrating year.
"I know he feels sort of funny walking in here. Obviously, we signed him to be an important part of what we're trying to accomplish and he wasn't able to do it."
A return was a longshot for Pavano, but he'd remained hopeful, even as weeks turned into months. Doctors insisted that it would likely take Pavano six to seven weeks from the time of the injury for him to return to mound form, and the timeline proved a tad generous.
Pavano's rehab continues daily and could possibly have him ready for the postseason, but Spring Training 2006 looks far more likely. Pavano reminded reporters he doesn't make the decisions, but sounded as though he'd prefer not to interfere with the Yankees' run toward October.
"I don't think that's fair to the guys who have been here battling the whole year, to take up a spot," Pavano said.
Long time coming: Vento's eight-year journey through the farm system finally got him to the Bronx on Tuesday, as he walked into the home clubhouse for the first time, finding a locker with his No. 58 hanging in it.
"All the hard work paid off," said Vento, 27. "All the ups and downs. I'm just grateful I stuck with it."
A 40th-round draft pick of the Yankees in the June 1997 draft, Vento had spent the last 2 1/2 years on the big league bubble at Triple-A before finally getting the call to the Majors this week.
An International League All-Star, Vento hit .291 with 12 home runs and 84 RBIs in 130 games for the Clippers this season, leading his club with 40 multi-hit games and 37 doubles.
"This season's going just great for me," Vento said. "I bought a new house, my wife's pregnant, I made the All-Star team. Now, I'm coming to New York. It's been a great, great season for me."
On deck: Jaret Wright gets right back on the horse after leaving his last start Thursday with a bruised collarbone and neck, courtesy of a line drive off the bat of Seattle's Raul Ibanez.
The right-hander faces Tampa Bay's Doug Waechter as the Yankees and Devil Rays play Game 2 of a three-game set in the Bronx on Wednesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.
"He's a pretty tough character," Torre said of Wright.
Bryan Hoch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.