After wakeup call, Wang shows Crew resurgence

Lefty owns 1.59 ERA in 14 Minors starts after Milwaukee outrights him

After wakeup call, Wang shows Crew resurgence

MIAMI -- Was it the stern talk from his manager and pitching coach that turned Wei-Chung Wang's season around? Or was it the shock of being removed from the Brewers' 40-man roster?

Whatever the inspiration, the 23-year-old left-hander has re-asserted himself as a Brewers pitching prospect. Since being outrighted from the roster in mid-June, Wang owns a 1.59 ERA and .226 average against in 14 starts, the first 13 at advanced Class A Brevard County and the last on Sunday at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Wang scattered four hits and did not walk a batter while striking out five over six scoreless innings for the SkySox following a promotion.

"I know he's been on a good run, and that's great," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I'm glad he's finishing the season on a strong note. That's going to be good for him next year. I assume -- I don't know -- but it probably means he's ticketed for Double-A next year, and I believe that's progress."

Wang, born in Taiwan and originally signed by the Pirates, is on a unique journey. He'd never pitched above Rookie ball when the Brewers made him a Rule 5 Draft pick in December 2013, and he started the 2014 season in the Major Leagues. Wang struggled out of the Brewers' bullpen, missed time with a sore shoulder, then returned to the Minor Leagues for the start of the 2015 season and struggled badly again.

In his first 12 starts at Class A Brevard County, a place known as being pitcher-friendly, Wang posted a 5.93 ERA while opponents batted .312. The assumption in Milwaukee was that Wang was bored, dismayed or both with being back in the Minor Leagues.

At about the same time, the Brewers designated him for assignment on June 18 to open a roster spot, Brevard County manager Joe Ayrault and Dave Chavarria called Wang in for a chat.

"They made him aware that you're just not going to coast your way back to the big leagues," Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said.

After he cleared waivers, Wang was removed from the 40-man roster.

"I do know sometimes the action is better than the talk," Counsell said.

Wang responded by allowing only four hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings against Lakeland on June 24. He's allowed zero or one earned run in 11 of his 14 starts since then, and has allowed more than three earned runs only once.

Wang was promoted to Colorado Springs after the Brewers called Ariel Pena to the big leagues. The Brewers went to the Class A level for Pena's replacement, because they didn't want to disrupt the roster of postseason-bound Double-A Biloxi.

The Brewers now face a decision with Wang. Will they put him back on the 40-man roster to protect him from another trip through the Rule 5 Draft process? Or will they leave him off and risk another club taking a chance on a live, left-handed arm?

"It's probably too soon to tell for sure whether he'll go back on the roster or not," Ash said. "At the very least, he'll be reserved at Triple-A and come back and pitch next year."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.