Starting pitcher John Lannan had what can only be described as a very strange year with the Nationals. Lannan was the opening day starter in 2010, and the second guy in the rotation in 2011. He broke in the Nationals in 2007, and has been a regular member of the starting rotation since 2008. He was eligible for arbitration for 2012, and was awarded a five million dollar contract for the year.
Just before the end of spring training in 2012, when it appeared he had a spot in the starting rotation locked up, it was announced that Lannan would be sent to the minors to begin the year and Ross Detwiler would be the Nationals fifth starter. Detwiler had no minor league options left, and Lannan did. Lannan was sent to AAA Syracuse. He did not, understandably, react well to the reassignment. He demanded that the Nationals trade him, but his first couple of starts in Syracuse did not go well. Whether it was mental or mechanical, John did not pitch well, which did not help attract interest from other teams. No trade was made, and Lannan was pitching in the minors.
Once Lannan settled down in Syracuse, he posted numbers there over the course of the minor league season comparable to his major league statistics.
Lannan pitched six games for the Nationals this year, going 4-1 with an ERA of 4.13. He got his first two starts with the team as a result of the new rule that allows teams to bring up a player from the minors when the club has a doubleheader to use for that situation. The team then has to send the player back to the minors after he is used in the doubleheader.
Lannan’s first appearance with the Nationals was in the second game of a doubleheader against the Braves on July 21st. Lannan pitched very well and got the Nationals a very important win against the Braves. He then pitched on August 3rd in the first game of a doubleheader against the Marlins, getting another win.
Lannan made the team for good as part of the September callups when the rosters expanded. He provided valuable starts for the Nats after Strasburg was shut down and removed from the starting rotation. He pitched four games in September, with a record of two wins, a loss and a no decision in those starts.
Lannan’s future with the Nationals is unknown. He is arbitration eligible again in 2013, and it is unknown whether the Nats will offer him arbitration or trade him in the offseason. Much depends on whether the Nationals sign another starting pitcher.
Season Highlight: July 21st in a start against the Braves. The Nationals were in the middle of a four game homestand against the Braves, who were nipping at the Nats’ heels in the standings in the NL East. The Nats had lost the first two games against the Braves. Lannan pitched the second game of the doubleheader that day, got the win, and righted the Nats’ ship. The Nats beat the Braves the next day, getting a split against the Braves and maintaining their lead over them in the NL East race. Lannan’s pitching performance that evening was a big pick me up for the team that badly needed it.