Chien-Ming Wang faced hitters in a simulated game earlier today, another key step toward the right-hander's return from a hamstring injury.
Facing batters at the Nationals' extended spring training complex in Viera, Fla., Wang threw 35 pitches
"He threw really good," manager Davey Johnson said. "The report I got was ... he had really, good, hard sink and a great curveball, which we saw in his last outing before he hurt his hammy."
Wang injured himself March 15 trying to make a play at first base, tumbling awkwardly to the ground. He opened the season on the 15-day disabled list but was able to keep his arm in shape while waiting for the hamstring strain to heal.
The plan from here for Wang is not entirely clear. Johnson said today the right-hander will begin a rehab assignment with one of the Nationals' minor-league affiliates in five days, but general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday that Wang would need to pitch in a second simulated game in Florida before heading north.
Once he does start pitching in minor-league games, Wang must come off the DL within 30 days. Whenever that day comes, the Nationals will have a tough decision to make, needing to bump someone (most likely Ross Detwiler) from a starting rotation that entering tonight has posted a major-league-best 1.69 ERA.
"It's kind of a nice problem to have, being that crowded," Johnson said. "But that's going to be a Rizzo problem."
Meanwhile, Brad Lidge's tense save last night looks even more impressive with the revelation that the veteran reliever had been dealing with vertigo for several days.
Johnson said Lidge had woken up at least four consecutive days feeling dizzy and unable to balance himself out. He was treated at the ballpark, but the manager wasn't sure his fill-in closer would even be available to pitch before summoning him for the ninth inning of a 1-0 game.
Lidge appears to be fine now.
"He said this morning was the first morning he woke up without feeling vertigo," Johnson said. "And if you've ever had vertigo, it's something you don't want. You can't hardly walk a straight line."