Sunday, April 19, 2009

Damon Airs Out Wang

You never like to see a team start with infighting this early in the season.

After Chien-Ming Wang (0-3, 34.50) fell apart for the third consecutive start en route to a 22-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians, Johnny Damon had some choice words for the former ace. "He's making it real tough on our bullpen right now. We have to count on guys in our 'pen to go seven or eight innings. We have six losses on the year right now, and he's got three of them. In all three of those games, we've been blown out and we've had to go to our bullpen, so maybe our bullpen's not sharp the following days. I don't know what more to say, but hopefully he can figure it out, because it'd be tough to keep on going like this," the outfielder said.

The Yankees are concerned about Wang psychologically right now. His mechanics are clearly off, and his sinker is not the biting pitch that it used to be. It is very alarming considering the fact that an opposing hitter once described hitting Wang's sinker as akin to smacking at the ball with a wet newspaper.

Damon should probably have kept his mouth closed. Nothing he said is inaccurate, but the last thing the Yankees need is for Wang to start feeling like an outcast on the team, or like a burden on his teammates. The guy won 19 games each in 2006 and 2007, years the Yankees were desperately thin in the starting rotation. He didn't mouth off about other pitchers who struggled, and he definitely didn't air out Damon during his forgettable 2007 season. Say what you want to about his current performance, but Wang is a soft-spoken, classy athlete. He doesn't deserve Damon's lacerating comments in a public forum.

Everyone in New York is very aware of Wang's ineffectiveness without Damon pointing them out. Last night at an artsy bar in Brooklyn, it was a recurring topic of conversation around the room. On Twitter, New York celebrities like Artie Lang and Joe Budden were weighing in on Wang's struggles.

The Yankees are talking about skipping Wang's next start, in Fenway Park, where he has struggled in his career. They have a day off before then, so it would not affect the other pitchers' rest. But what will likely need to happen if Wang doesn't pitch a gem in his next outing is a AAA assignment. Phil Hughes (2-0, 2.31) is off to a hot start with the 10-0 Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees, and Wang clearly needs to make some adjustments.

It would be a real shame if he really has lost his touch. Watching him pitch at the height of his game is a joy. No one hits the ball out of the infield. He is a master of inducing weak contact. No one expected this.

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