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Friday, May 24, 2013

Of all the injured Yankee stars set to return, Chien-Ming Wang could be the most important, and he is rapidly approaching a crossroads

In occasional bursts of optimism, or Oxycontin, John Sterling will describe a healing Yankee star as being like a trade where we give up nothing. For example, when Mark Teixeira comes home, we may only have to jettison Ben Francisco or Dellin Betances - at first, anyway.

But the month of June may resemble more of an off-season house-cleaning than a trade. After Robbie, our entire infield likely will turn over. We'll waive goodbye to players too marketable to take the loyalty bullet and go to Scranton. And in July/August, we'll welcome back the towering two - Jeter and Arod - amid crazy and unspoken fears that they cannot excel at their positions - and what the hell do we do if they can't? Good luck, Mr. Cashman!

But screw all that. This team has won via pitching. Despite a few whoppers from Phil Hughes and Super Nova, we've enjoyed a great spring. Now comes the meat grinder stretch of the season - and maybe a correction. Listen: Mariano can't go forever.  A couple games, he's been damn lucky with balls hit at fielders. CC is surviving on guile; the fastball is not fasting. Andy cannot stay healthy. And Kuroda's collapse in Baltimore reminds us of stretches last year that prompted this ditty

Which brings us to Mr. Chien-Ming Wang.

Early this spring -  in a move greeted within the Yankiverse like news of new album by Crosby, Stills and Nash - we signed Wang and sent him to Scranton.  A week from today, May 31, he reaches an opt-out date in his contract. If the Yankees don't promote him to New York, he can walk. 

The day before his last opt-out clause, Wang had a great outing. He probably could have gotten a deal with some team but chose to stay. I believe the Yankees are quietly using their financial might at the Triple A level, shooting money at minor league free agents, more so than other teams. (I've wondered about that since they resigned David Adams to a minor league contract, after he was waived for Vernon Wells. I thought Adams would be gone for sure, but somehow Cashman coaxed him back, and I gotta believe an open checkbook had something to do with it.) So... it's possible that Wang is happy with his lucrative Yankee minor league deal and wants to stick with his legacy team. I dunno. But at age 33, he also knows time is running out.

The few news reports we've seen  - (and who knows if they have credibility?) - say his sinker isn't the bowling ball it was back in the glory days. At Scranton, he's started seven games, thrown 44 innings with an ERA of 3.07. He's had some clunkers, but in his last start, he went six innings and pitched pretty well. He's showing control - only seven walks - but the truth is, if the Yankees were obliged to promote the best pitcher from Scranton based on performance, it would be Chris Bootcheck - age 34 - (and we know that's not going to happen, without a staph infection at the majors level.)

The seven days of Wang. By next Friday, Andy could be back. Unless we have another injury - always a possibility - there's no spot for Wang in our rotation. But do we let him walk out the door? The plates are spinning on their sticks. John and Suzyn might need a new prescription.

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