Friday, July 18, 2014

Chien-Ming Wang makes solid debut in 8-4 Knights win over RailRiders

There was a time when the news of the Chicago White Sox signing Taiwanese pitcher Chien-Ming Wang would have been front-page, above the fold, material.

On Thursday, a website known for being on top of trade rumors and potential signings, listed Wang’s signing and subsequent assignment to the Class AAA Charlotte Knights under a subhead that read: “Minor Moves.”

Players also mentioned in the “Minor Moves” post included former Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis (he’s thinking about coaching) and former NBA star Tracy McGrady (who has retired from baseball…wait, what?)

So it was with little fanfare that Wang made his Knights debut on Friday in an 8-4 Charlotte win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in front of 10,240 at BB&T BallPark.

The 34-year-old, who led the American League in wins with 19 when he was a member of the New York Yankees in 2006, tossed six innings and allowed four runs on seven hits to pick up the win.

True to form, Wang recorded 11 of his 18 outs via the groundball. He also struck out two and walked three, while touching an encouraging 91 mph on the stadium radar gun.

Wang went 8-5 with a 3.70 ERA in 19 games this season with the Class AAA Louisville Bats (a Cincinnati Reds minor league affiliate) before exercising an opt-out option in his contract to pursue an opportunity to find a Major League job.

“I tried to get a better chance to get back to the majors,” said Wang about the decision to sign with Chicago. “Other teams talked to me, but to have a chance to be a Major League fifth starter, I thought this was my best choice.”

After retiring the first two RailRiders batters he faced in the first inning, Wang allowed a double and a run-scoring single before recording a strikeout to end the inning.

The next four frames were vintage Wang, who entered the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead and having thrown just 72 pitches. 

The RailRiders touched the 6-foot-4-inch right-hander up for three runs in the sixth on four hits. Nevertheless, Knights fans gave him a nice ovation as he headed for the dugout following a debut that lived up to expectations.

“They just told me to keep working and being consistent,” said Wang when asked what the White Sox had told him about his chances to earn a quick promotion back to the big leagues.

In the top of the seventh, Charlotte took a 6-4 edge thanks to a two-run single from Josh Phegley (3-for-4, three RBI) to ensure that Wang would be credited with the win, Charlotte’s fourth in a row.

Andy Wilkins (3-for-4, 2B, HR), who finished the night 3-for-4, added two more insurance runs in the eighth inning with his International League-leading 19th home run of the season.

“It's just a matter (of) having depth so that if something should happen in Chicago, we've got another option to come give us a professional outing," White Sox General Manger Rick Hahn told after Wang’s signing.

"You sort of know what you're going to get there; (Wang’s) going to throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground. It is conceivable that, if there's a need here, we would turn to him."