Wang learns quickly from poor outing
Creeping out in first inning, mechanical flaw promptly suppressed
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Chien-Ming Wang may not share A.J. Burnett's fervor for tattoos, saying that his mother would kill him if he were ever caught inking up his body.
But the Yankees teammates have found plenty of other subjects to discuss this spring.
One of the points that Burnett has stressed to Wang since arriving in camp has been the urgency of developing his other pitches, playing off a bowling-ball sinker that has been regarded as one of the league's best.
The suggestion is not a new one for Wang, who was tinkering with his offspeed pitches leading up to a season-ending injury last season. But hearing it from a power pitcher like Burnett may ratchet up the intensity of the message.
"A.J. told me a lot about changing speeds," Wang said. "More changeups, more sliders."
As the days of Spring Training begin to wane, Wang is making a conscious effort to mix in more variety. Though Burnett wasn't in the ballpark on Wednesday -- remaining behind with the Yankees in Tampa, Fla. -- credit him with a long-distance assist.
Coming off a rough outing against the Red Sox on Friday in which he recorded only five outs, Wang struggled early by presenting the same mechanical flaw to the Astros on Wednesday, allowing a triple and a run-scoring single in the first inning.
"You expect it to happen sometimes in Spring Training," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes they have a tired arm. I guess that's why you call it training. You don't expect them to be at top-notch shape once they get here, even though they've done it thousands of times."
Pitching coach Dave Eiland nudged Wang in the dugout after Houston's one-run first inning, reminding him that his body was again coming too quick and his right arm was dragging behind his body. After that, it was smooth sailing, as Wang limited the Astros to three hits over five innings of one-run ball.
"He made some adjustments in this game," Girardi said. "Early on, his sinker was in the dirt a little bit. Then he got up a little bit and found the right release point. That's what pitchers have to do. Sometimes you're going to be a little bit off and you have to make adjustments."
The most significant change of the afternoon for Wang may have been what he was not asked to do. The Yankees had believed that National League rules would be in effect at Osceola County Stadium for the game and had warned Wang not to swing or run when the pitcher's spot was due up.
As no one in pinstripes has forgotten, the Yankees' season took a significant turn for the worse in Houston last June 15, when Wang suffered a right Lisfranc injury while running the bases in an Interleague game. It turned out that there was miscommunication, because the DH rule was indeed in place on Wednesday.
"I brought a helmet," Wang said.
Bombers bits: Robinson Cano (right shoulder bursitis) served as the designated hitter on Wednesday and went 2-for-4, raising his Grapefruit League average to .474. He is scheduled to play second base on Friday against the Twins, seeing his first defensive action since the World Baseball Classic. ... Girardi confirmed that CC Sabathia will pitch in a Minor League game on Sunday. Alfredo Aceves will start against the Rays instead. ... Non-roster invitee Brett Tomko -- a candidate for the Yankees' long-relief role -- has a 1.59 ERA in 11 1/3 Grapefruit League innings, allowing eight hits and one walk while striking out 10.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.