Wang lost the hearing. He knew it was business, of course, but the words stung him almost as much as what happened in October. When he arrived at spring training, he vowed to work with new pitching coach Dave Eiland on fully incorporating a changeup and slider into his repertoire. "He's going to be more than a one-pitch pitcher," Eiland declared.
Until this season Wang had relied on his sinker roughly 90% of the time. During some outings, catcher Jorge Posada would go an entire game without calling for anything but the sinker. Through his first three starts this season, however, Wang had expanded his arsenal to include sliders 15% of the time and changeups 8%. "After [what happened in] the playoffs, I know I still have a lot to prove; I'm still working," he said, after allowing two runs and striking out two batters in seven innings against the Blue Jays in the season opener. "I know I need to change a little to reach the next level."
More than the fans, major league clubs believe what they've seen from Wang. Over the last two years they have signed 15 players from Taiwan, and nearly half the teams have full-time scouts on the island. Kao sees the talent coming up through the high schools and colleges, and it gives him hope. "The quality level here is getting better," he says. "Coaches are learning, coaching smarter."
Will there be another Chien-Ming Wang? Kao laughs, sounding as if he thinks the question is absurd. "No, I don't think so, not while I'm still living," he says. "He is a precious gem. Our precious gem."