Chien-Ming Wang makes first professional start since July of 2009

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Davey Johnson is understandably grabbing most of the headlines at the moment, but another item of significance to the Nationals went down in Hagerstown, Maryland earlier this evening.

Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington reports that Chien-Ming Wang allowed two runs on four hits over three innings in his first minor league rehab start with Class A Hagerstown. On the long road back from shoulder surgery, this was his first professional appearance of any kind since July 4, 2009 as a member of the Yankees.

Wang threw 49 pitches while striking out three, walking none and and hitting a batter. Those numbers don’t tell us much, but one encouraging tidbit is that six of his nine outs were recorded via the groundball.

Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports that the 31-year-old right-hander topped out at 90 mph during tonight’s outing, but mostly sat in the 86-88 mph range. Wang averaged just over 93 mph on his fastball back in 2006, but was at 91.8 mph with his heater in 2008 and 2009.

The Nationals have been extra patient with Wang over the past 17 months, so don’t look for that to change now. He’s going to need to make it through several rehab outings in one piece before having a realistic shot at pitching in the major leagues again.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.