Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Its baseball star fallen, Taiwan scopes alternatives

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rtr26txvA chain of injuries suffered by New York Yankees star Wang Chien-ming is pushing a pair of more obscure Taiwan-born U.S. Major League Baseball pitchers into the limelight as dejected fans grudgingly seek alternatives.

Fans in baseball-crazy Taiwan, though far from giving up on Wang, say they are looking harder at Ni Fu-te and Kuo Hong-chih. But unlike Wang, a starting pitcher responsible for winning games, the other two are relief pitchers and neither is quite a superhero.

Wang, so famous in Taiwan that his jersey number, 40, is synonymous with his name, before 2008 was a league sensation whose sinker balls had earned him a 54-23 career win-loss record and a line-up of product sponsorships in Taiwan. Wang sat out much of the past two seasons.

“To say that Wang Chien-ming will be replaced by these other two because he was injured, I wouldn’t go that far, but Taiwan’s Yankees viewership has been affected,” said Kang Cheng-nan, a physical education teacher at National Taiwan University. ”The other two need to be monitored for longer, but if they do well, fans will watch.”

Taiwan limps along with fallen baseball hero

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People are praying in Taiwan for baseball pitcher Wang Chien-ming.

The guy isn’t dead, despite a few alarmist banner headlines, but over the past month he has pushed Taiwan’s collective sadness to code blue levels.

Wang, a Taiwan-born Major League Baseball pitcher for the New York Yankees, wrecked his first three games of the 2009 season after sitting out most of last year with a foot injury.

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