WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson was optimistic on Saturday about pitcher Chien-Ming Wang's progress at Triple-A Syracuse, and Wang will likely pitch out of the bullpen when he returns -- at least temporarily.
Entering the season, Wang was locked in as the team's fifth starter, but has yet to pitch for Washington because of a strained left hamstring. Ross Detwiler took advantage by filling that role and going 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA in seven starts this season. Wang also had shoulder surgery in 2009, forcing him to miss almost two seasons.
"I really like Chien-Ming Wang," Johnson said. "I think he's a heck of a pitcher. I like what I saw last year in his progression from a shoulder injury. I love a sinkerballer. He has great pedigree."
Wang went 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts last season. Johnson still values him as a starter, but he is reluctant to tweak a rotation that has been the strength of the club. The Nationals lead Major League Baseball in several pitching categories entering Saturday, including ERA (2.90), starters' ERA (2.63) and strikeouts (341).
"Detwiler has pitched himself into a role as one of the main guys, for not only this year, but for the future here," Johnson said. "Everybody says it's a good problem to have, but probably not for the questions I'm going to get asked [by the media], because there is no easy choice."
As a result, Wang will go to the bullpen by default. But that certainly is not the long-term plan, according to Johnson.
"When [Wang] comes up, I'll probably start him in the bullpen," Johnson said. "It's probably the easiest no-decision, But I don't look at him as a reliever. I look at him as a quality Major League starter."