Wang throws in extended spring camp
Struggling righty fans 11 in seven innings vs. Phils farmhands
NEW YORK -- Skipped for this weekend's series at Fenway Park, struggling Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang instead pitched seven innings in an extended spring game on Thursday in Tampa, Fla.
Wang allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits, walking none and striking out 11 against a team of Philadelphia Phillies farmhands. Wang threw 70 of 91 pitches for strikes in the outing.
"[It was a] good day," Wang told The Associated Press. "[The] sinker [was] down more, but sometimes got higher and the ball didn't sink."
Carrying a 34.50 ERA through three starts, the Yankees decided this week to skip Wang in the rotation against the Red Sox, instead sending him to Tampa where he could work in front of Minor League pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. He will rejoin the Yankees in Boston on Friday but has not been told when his next start will be.
"He doesn't have the arm strength he had last year," Contreras told the AP. "But he hasn't pitched in eight months prior to this Spring Training. What I saw today, he had the best slider I've seen since I've known Chien-Ming. The slider has improved and the changeup is very good. His offspeed pitches are coming in really well."
Yankees vice president Billy Connors worked on mechanics with Wang before the game, including staying back a little longer during his delivery.
"I thought he did well," Connors told the AP. "What I looked for was ground balls on his sinker. He had a good sinker. In this league here, [if you] you throw ground balls, the ground is so hard they're base hits. He needed to get out there and let his mind back in the groove."
Wang's rough return from a right foot injury suffered last June 15 has included the lowlight of serving up eight runs and recording just four outs in New York's 22-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
The issue is believed to be a mechanical flaw that forces Wang's right arm to drag behind his body, keeping his sinker up in the strike zone and hittable. Wang has insisted that he is healthy, but general manager Brian Cashman has not ruled out an injury, saying that team physicians will examine Wang to make sure.
If Wang remains with the big league club, his next turn in the rotation could come Tuesday at Detroit. Cashman seemed to hint this week that it will not be Wang, saying that he would be "surprised" if Wang's stay in Tampa is a one-and-done.
"Obviously we need his mechanics to be down right and have a good solid outing where that sinker looks right," Cashman said. "I don't think it's going to be something that'll be ... fixed right away. We'll see."
If the Yankees opt to place Wang on the disabled list or otherwise not pitch him again, they could summon right-hander Phil Hughes from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on turn.
Hughes pitched Wednesday at Triple-A, improving to 3-0 with 7 2/3 innings of one-run, six-hit ball in a 6-1 victory over Buffalo, walking one and striking out seven in the 105-pitch start.
In other news at camp, Alex Rodriguez increased both his running and hitting sessions as he continues a rehab program after right hip surgery on March 9. The AP reported Rodriguez ran four times from the plate to first after swinging a bat, and went from first to second six times.
Rodriguez also took 28 swings on curveballs off a pitching machine for the first time. He followed that with 63 swings in regular batting practice, and the Yankees continue to maintain a May 15 target date for Rodriguez's return, though it may come sooner than that if he does not suffer any setbacks.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.