Wang's spring ends on down note
Girardi feels hitters were too comfortable with right-hander
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The roundness of Chien-Ming Wang's spring ERA -- an unsightly 8.06 -- can be explained by the comfort Grapefruit League hitters felt in facing the Yankees' right-hander.
That's normally not what a team would like to hear about one of their hurlers, especially a 19-game winner tabbed to pitch in the season opener, but the Yankees believe they've already corrected the flaw.
With his last five innings of the spring in the books, Wang was given an exhibition loss in New York's 4-0 defeat to the Phillies at Bright House Field, but he also has something important to carry into the regular season.
The Phillies hit Wang around in the second inning for four runs on four hits, a frame that could have had much less damage if both Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez were able to turn double-play balls. Regardless, Yankees manager Joe Girardi thought Philadelphia batters were digging in a bit too much as the inning went on, and gave Wang his read upon returning to the dugout.
"Joe told me they were too comfortable," Wang said. "I didn't pitch inside enough."
Wang's spring has been something of a mixed bag. His last effort before Wednesday came in a Minor League game against the Class A Vero Beach club in the Rays system, and those Florida State League bats touched him for five runs (four earned) -- though four of the runs came in Wang's sixth inning of work, as he was tiring and reaching his pitch count for the afternoon.
That was essentially how Wang's second inning in Clearwater played out, on his way to a 76-pitch (48-strike) outing that he believes will permit him to throw around 100 pitches on March 31 against Toronto.
Wang gave up three consecutive singles to open the inning before a run scored on a Jayson Werth grounder that could have been a double play, but instead recorded just one out when Cano was slow with the turn. After a walk, Rodriguez booted a play that also could have been a twin killing, allowing another Philadelphia run to score.
Those were the negatives. After his final start of the spring, Wang preferred to look at what he had accomplished this month, and much of that centers upon being a different pitcher than the one who suffered two losses in last year's American League Division Series, refining his changeup and splitter.
"I thought he had a decent spring," Girardi said. "I thought today was his best day, which is good. [The pitchers are] developing arm strength and they're developing stamina during Spring Training."
And, once in a while, they get to hit. The Yankees played with National League rules for the first time on Wednesday, meaning that Wang actually had to grab a bat and dig in against Phillies starter Brett Myers for a couple of plate appearances.
To Wang's credit, the skills he last tested in a June Interleague series at San Francisco hadn't betrayed him; like Billy Crystal, at least he made contact. Wang popped a bunt over the mound for the final out of the second inning and was thrown out on another bunt in the fifth inning.
The infielders needn't have worried, even in the situation with two outs. With Opening Day looming near and any injury disastrous, the Yankees' instructions to Wang were extremely clear.
"No swings," Wang said. "Just bunts."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.