It all pivoted on Wang’s foot
2008 injury sent Yankee into spiral
NEW YORK - The Yankees used a three-man rotation in the postseason, unwilling to take a chance on the inconsistent Joba Chamberlain or the little-used Chad Gaudin.
Chien-Ming Wang, watching from the bench, knows it could have been different if not for the wrong turn his career has taken in the last 16 months. Once one of the better starting pitchers in baseball, Wang is now facing an uncertain future after a series of injuries.
Wang was 54-20 with a 3.79 ERA over the first four years of his career. He finished second in the 2006 Cy Young Award voting and twice won 19 games.
He appeared headed for another successful season in 2008 before tearing a tendon and a ligament in his right foot while running the bases during an interleague game in Houston June 15.
Wang missed the rest of that season and was not the same pitcher when he returned this season, going 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA in 12 games. Wang was historically bad in his first three starts, giving up 23 runs on 23 hits over only six innings. The Yankees returned him to the disabled list with what they claimed were weak hip muscles related to the foot injury.
Wang returned in late May but was lost for the season July 4 with a capsule tear in his shoulder. He had surgery July 29 and is not expected back until midway through next season.
“Everything has been bad since I hurt my foot,’’ said Wang, who has been traveling with the Yankees in the postseason. “It’s hard to watch. This is the World Series, everybody wants to play.’’
The 29-year-old righthander is eligible for salary arbitration. But the Yankees are not expected to offer him a contract before the Dec. 12 deadline. That would make Wang a free agent. For a team willing to invest the time in his rehabilitation, Wang could be worth an incentive-based contract.
There also remains a possibility that Wang stays with the Yankees on a minor league deal. He and his wife, who had their first child in the spring, are comfortable in New York.
“I’m going to get back next season. I can be what I was before,’’ Wang said. “That is my goal. I hope I stay with the Yankees but if I don’t, I know I’m going to pitch again.’’
Howard was 3 for 19 with one RBI in the first five games of the World Series but, as usual, hit cleanup last night and connected for a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
“What am I going to do, call him in and say, ‘Ryan, I’m hitting you fifth or sixth tonight because this is the sixth game of the World Series?’ ’’ said Manuel. “What’s that telling him? If my manager did that to me, I’d have some words with him. I might win, too.’’
Manuel said it was a decision based only on what was best for the team, not Howard’s psyche.
“I’m not thinking about his feelings,’’ he said. “I’m not a feelings guy. You guys might think I’m a feelings guy. I’m not. I could care less about things like that when it comes to winning. The No. 1 priority we have is winning the game.
“I learned a long time ago, especially when I played baseball in Japan, you’ve got to slide that ego away every now and then, and really if I thought dropping Howard down in the lineup would win the game for us, I’d do it. But you know what, he’s been there that long, and I don’t want to go doing it on a day, the sixth game of the World Series.’’
Jeter has played in 138 postseason games and has 175 postseason hits after going 3 for 5 last night. Last season marked the only time in his career Jeter was not in the postseason.
“When I came to spring training, I asked Derek how the winter was and he said, ‘Too long.’ That was the first time anybody has ever said that to me,’’ Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. “It’s amazing to think that the guy has spent basically a year of his career in the playoffs.’’
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.