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MacArthur: Wang jumps on Blue Jays' pitching carousel

Scott MacArthur
6/9/2013 7:18:45 PM
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TORONTO - When he takes the ball on Tuesday night in Chicago, recently-signed Chien-Ming Wang will become the 12th pitcher to start a game for the Blue Jays this season.

He will be the 29th pitcher - relievers included - the club has used overall.

A back-to-back 19-game winner for the Yankees in 2006-2007, Wang provides experience for the back end of a rotation absent Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ.

"Seven innings a lot, a lot of strikes, lot of ground balls, he's not going to strike too many guys out but he's going to induce early contact and should pitch deep into the game if he's having some success," said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "Keep the ball on the ground."

The Blue Jays have been eyeing Wang in recent weeks. Scouts have been at his starts, for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and have liked what they've seen.

The numbers back them up. Wang is 4-4 with a 2.33 ERA in nine starts for the Railriders. He's thrown 58 innings, an average of six and a half per outing.

Anthopoulos whittled his choice down to two: Wang or Chad Jenkins, who made three generally effective starts for the Blue Jays, the most recent of which was on May 31 in San Diego.

"In this scenario, we get to option Chad and keep him, because right now he would be the next starter," said Anthopoulos. "We get to see if Wang might be an upgrade there. If things don't work out with Wang, Chad's still here and Chad could come right back up. But if Chad makes that start (Tuesday) and something happens to some other starter, or Chad doesn't perform, I don't know who the next guy would be right now."

Half a decade ago, Wang had worked himself into one of the premier pitchers in the American League. His .754 winning percentage from 2006-2008 (46-15) was the highest in that three-year span.

Wang's 2008 season was cut short by a right foot injury. In a game in June of that season, Wang tore his Lisfranc ligament and partially tore a muscle near his fibula running the bases in interleague play.

Hip and shoulder issues plagued Wang in 2009. He missed all of 2010 and split the 2011 and 2012 seasons between the Washington Nationals and their various minor league affiliates.

"We hope he makes a lot of starts for us but we don't want to go in and promise x-number amount of starts," said Anthopoulos. "Hopefully, he does well and we catch lightning in a bottle with him. But he understands, his agent understands, that if things don't work out, we have the right to turn the page."

Jenkins, 25, was 1-0 in three starts for the Blue Jays. He went five innings in each, getting a win in Boston and no decisions in a home win over Baltimore and in a road loss at San Diego.

Having only one minor league start prior to his recall, Jenkins relied mostly on a fastball-changeup combination. It's the lack of a breaking pitch Jenkins can turn to that has the organization wanting more time for development.

"His last start (in Buffalo) was okay - five innings, five runs, he was hit hard a little bit," said Anthopoulos. "It'd be nice to see him go on a roll. Again, when we called him up, we had a need. He had made one start in New Hampshire, did well, and did a good job for us. But it'd be nice to get some more innings under his belt and have him get on a bit of a roll before he comes back."

NOTES

- After Sunday's 6-4 loss to Texas, the Blue Jays activated reliever Darren Oliver (shoulder) from the disabled list. Right-hander Thad Weber was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.

- Barring a setback, Jose Reyes is about 10 days away from going on a minor league rehab assignment.

The shortstop's sprained left ankle is making progress. Reyes is now running the bases as part of his pre-game routine, a benchmark exercise in his recovery because of the torque base running puts on the ankle.

- Brandon Morrow (strained forearm) will throw a bullpen session in Chicago. He'll need two, maybe three, minor league rehab starts before he returns to the Blue Jays.

Morrow is eligible to come off the disabled list next Sunday but won't be ready by then.

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