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Former teammates excited about Wang

Former teammates excited about Wang

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals are expected to hold a news conference Friday afternoon to introduce free-agent right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who agreed to terms on a one-year, $2 million contract, which includes incentives that could push it up to $3 million.

The news conference will take place on the Space Coast Stadium field. There are going to be at least 40 media members in attendance and the media room inside the stadium was too small to hold the anticipated contingent.

Nationals pitchers Brian Bruney, Tyler Clippard and Ron Villone were all elated to learn about Wang being a teammate again. All three players played with Wang in New York with the Yankees.

Bruney, Clippard and Villone are aware that Wang will not be ready for Opening Day because he is still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. Wang is not in any pain and has been throwing from 120 feet on flat ground.

Wang, 29, is not expected to pitch in the big leagues until sometime in May, but they all say he could be one of the best pitchers in the National League once he is healthy.

"This has a tremendous upside," Villone said "You have a guy who could help out a ballclub if he is healthy. I know the kind of guy he is, the competitor he is. He is going to go out there when he is ready."

It's more than pitching that impresses his old, but new teammates. Bruney and Villone said that Wang is a great person in the clubhouse.

"He has a great sense of humor, good personality," Villone said. "You have to get to know him. It's going to take awhile. It doesn't matter if anybody is around him."

Said Bruney, "He is a great person to be with. He is a great family guy."

The past two seasons, Wang has pitched in a combined 27 games. In 2008, Wang didn't pitch after the All-Star break because of foot problems. This past season, Wang missed the Yankees' World Series run because of his shoulder.

At his best, Wang showed that he can be the ace of a pitching staff. In 2006 and '07, Wang went a combined 38-13 with a 3.67 ERA for the Yankees. Bruney was a teammate of Wang's when the latter had his best seasons. Why was Wang so successful? He had a tremendous sinker, according to Bruney.

"I think anyone who is affiliated with the Nationals or a fan of the Nationals, [they are going to be happy that he is here]," Bruney said. "I would like to come in and get the win for him."

Said Clippard, "I saw him in '07 at his best. He was contending for a Cy Young Award that year. He won 19 games a couple of years. He is a great pitcher. He could throw [a hard sinker] when I saw him and that was really impressive. He could do that throughout a whole game. He was getting ground balls left and right. He is a good, good pitcher. I was excited that we signed him."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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