Wang's future at crossroads with Yankees

Wang's future at crossroads with Yankees

NEW YORK -- Cradling his infant son, Justin, in one arm, Chien-Ming Wang walked out of the home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Friday, unsure if he would return.

Wang, the former ace who underwent right shoulder surgery in July, will be eligible for arbitration this winter. Rather than submit to that process, which would all but guarantee Wang a contract of roughly $4 million for next season, the Yankees are likely to non-tender him. Doing so would give them the option of signing Wang to a far less lucrative contract, with the risk that he may decide to sign elsewhere.

When asked about the situation Friday, Wang said simply: "I don't know."

It is one of several uncertainties for Wang, who will travel to Birmingham, Ala., on Monday for a consultation with Dr. James Andrews, the specialist who operated on his shoulder. Wang said he expects Andrews to provide more insight into when exactly he can begin throwing.

As it stood Friday, Wang said he did not expect to pitch in Minor League rehab games until "April or May."

Even then, he will have much to prove in order to regain a spot in the rotation. Once the Yankees' ace and twice a 19-game winner, Wang saw his career run off track when he first injured his right foot, and then his shoulder, in successive seasons.

Since the time of Wang's original injury, the Yankees signed free-agent starters CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, acquired Chad Gaudin in a trade and converted Joba Chamberlain into a starter.

Two days removed from the World Series, their rotation plans for 2010 remain blurry. But the Yankees must proceed assuming that Wang will not be a part of them. Even if he can return healthy to the club, there is no telling whether he can still be the same pitcher that went 38-13 over the course of two seasons.

The Yankees, of course, recall how valuable Wang was to them during that stretch, allowing him to travel with the team throughout the postseason. Wang was in the clubhouse Wednesday night after the Bombers clinched their World Series title. Two days later, he was introduced at City Hall and given a key to the city.

The experience for Wang was at times both "sad" and "fun" -- sad because "I did not do anything this year," and fun because he did not need to. The Yankees won anyway.

Only one thought managed to pervade that bittersweet taste, and Wang expressed it Friday in his typically quiet, succinct style.

"I want to come back," he said. And then, carrying Justin, he walked out the door.

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