Royals hoping Wang is spring success story

Veteran right-hander impressing new club with increased velocity

Royals hoping Wang is spring success story

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In every Royals camp, it seems, someone off baseball's radar screen suddenly emerges.

Last year it was Ryan Madson, who hadn't pitched in the big leagues since 2011, but he made the Royals' Opening Day roster and had a superb season.

This year's camp surprise could be 35-year-old Chien-Ming Wang, who won 19 games in back-to-back seasons in 2006-07. But Wang hasn't pitched in the big leagues since '13.

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Those kind of slim odds seem right up the Royals' alley.

Kansas City signed him to a Minor League deal this offseason, just to take a chance and based, too, on the fact he used to work with pitching coach Dave Eiland when the two were with the Yankees.

"We just had to see where he was," manager Ned Yost said. "He won 19 games back to back. Guys can bounce back. It's an opportunity, let's see what you got. He's got experience. He's pitched in the big leagues. So far he has been very impressive."

In four appearances this spring, Wang has given up just one run in six innings while striking out five. He worked through the middle of the White Sox Opening Day order on Monday in impressive fashion.

And what really has caught the coaching staff's eyes is Wang's velocity. Wang said his velocity was stuck around 88-89 mph last season in the Minors.

This spring, Wang's velo is an eye-popping 94-95 and his fastball has showed terrific movement.

Wang credits this increase to attending the Texas Baseball Ranch, a baseball school run in part by pitching guru Ron Wolforth, who also has helped Indians starter Trevor Bauer.

"I heard a lot of success stories about that school," Wang said. "I felt I had nothing to lose going there."

Wang said Wolforth helped change his arm angle slightly, and that has made a huge difference. Wang also said he has taken his conditioning program more seriously.

"This whole Spring Training, I feel better than last season," Wang said. "I will try to do whatever I can to help [this team]."

For now, Wang has been used primarily as a one- or two-inning guy. The Royals signed him thinking that he could be rotational depth, knowing that Wang was willing to start the season at Triple-A Omaha.

Wang can opt out of his deal with the Royals on May 1.

But at the moment, Wang remains in the thick of the race for the final one or two spots in the bullpen.

All Wang wants is a shot to stick with the big league team.

"I've been up there before and it's not the time to give up [the dream] yet," Wang said. "I still think it can happen."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.