NEW YORK -- Chien-Ming Wang was in a car, about 70 miles from New York City and headed to Pawtucket, R.I., when he received a call. Joba Chamberlain had been hit by a line drive, so the Yankees wanted him to turn around.
Instead of making a rehab start Friday night for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Pawtucket, he returned to the Yankees to aid a bullpen depleted by extra work and the loss once again of setup man Brian Bruney.
Wang wound up pitching three innings in Friday night's 7-3 loss to Philadelphia, allowing two run and six hits. Still, he lowered his ERA from 34.50 to 25.00.
"I saw a lot more velocity. I saw a lot more sink when the ball was down," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "His arm strength is back. His sinker was exploding. It was a step in the right direction."
Wang gave up a home run to Raul Ibanez, his second batter, that went over the Yankees' bullpen in right-center. Still, New York pitching coach Dave Eiland thought after the 51-pitch outing that Wang is starting to pitch as he did in the past.
"A lot of hits he gave up were seeing-eye ground balls," Eiland said. "There's still a lot of work to do, but it was encouraging."
Wang will be given at least three days off and would start Tuesday night at Texas if Chamberlain's knee prevents him from pitching. For now, the Yankees could use Wang in the bullpen.
After making just one appearance since coming off the disabled list, Bruney's elbow is hurting again. He had an MRI on Thursday and an arthrogram Friday of the flexor near his right elbow that showed no structural damage but will be unavailable until Sunday or Monday at the earliest.
"It's kind of bothering me a little bit all year," said Bruney, who described himself as "a little bewildered."
"Any time you feel something and then nothing shows up, you're then: Why does it hurt?" he said. "I'm not being a baby about it. I've been pitching for a while with it. You know, I tried to toughen up and pitch through it and be there for guys on the team."
Bruney is taking anti-inflammatory medication and probably will try to play catch Sunday.
"Hopefully this medicine that I have and a couple days off and maybe just the assurance in my head that nothing's wrong will be enough that I can get over that hump," he said.
Wang's relief appearance was just his third in 101 major league appearances. A 19-game winner in 2006 and 2007, he missed the final 3˝ months of last season after severely injuring his right foot while running the bases at Houston on June 15.
When he returned this spring, he went 0-3 in three starts this season before going on the DL in late April with weakness in the abductor muscles in his hips. Phil Hughes replaced him in the rotation.
Wang made two rehab starts in the minors and says he has better balance now. After watching his last minor league effort, the Yankees didn't think he was ready to return but the team changed its mind after using its bullpen for 8 1-3 innings Thursday.
Chamberlain said before Friday afternoon that his bruised right knee feels better and he thinks he'll be able to take his next turn. He was struck a day earlier by a first-inning liner off the bat of Adam Jones, and the Yankees are concerned that he might not be able to push off the rubber normally.
"It was a lot better than I thought it would be," Chamberlain said. "It didn't bruise or swell, so that's a good sign."
Notes: To clear a roster spot for Wang, New York optioned RHP Jonathan Albaladejo to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... New York LF Johnny Damon was 0 for 4 after missing Thursday's game because he was sore, a day after crashing into the left-field wall.