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John Lannan is scheduled to make two more spring starts, including today.
VIERA, Fla. -- With Chien-Ming Wang likely to open the season on the disabled list while recovering from a hamstring injury, manager Davey Johnson this morning confirmed what had long been assumed: John Lannan will open the season as the Nationals' No. 5 starter.
"John's my guy," Johnson said. "I like John. And John can pitch. He led our club last year in wins."
Lannan, who went 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts last season, looked like the odd man out of the Nationals' crowded pitching staff when camp opened and was a strong candidate to be traded. But once Wang injured his left hamstring March 15 trying to make a play at first base, Lannan stepped in to take over his slot in the rotation.
Lannan made the first of two final Grapefruit League starts today and turned in one of his best performances of the spring: Over five innings against the Astros, he allowed two runs on two hits, striking out five while keeping his pitch count at a modest 71.
"I kind of just gave myself a chance," he said. "I trusted it. I wasn't so hard on myself. I just let it work. I just tried to throw as many strikes as I possibly could."
Though he heard plenty of rumors surrounding his future -- that he would be traded or perhaps optioned to Class AAA Syracuse -- when camp opened, Lannan insisted it never fazed him.
"It's basically just rumors," he said. "I mean, I know what I am, and I've had success. That's all I can focus on: What's made me successful and just to get better. So I really haven't focused on any of this stuff that's been outside. To me, it's just noise and it doesn't really affect me."
He also never sought any words of reassurance from Johnson.
"Davey's got a lot on his plate. He doesn't have to worry about me," Lannan said. "There's other things that he might need to worry about, but I want him to know he doesn't have to come over here, tap me on the back and say: 'Hey, it's going to be OK.' I just don't need that from him."
Lannan's inclusion in the rotation leaves left-hander Ross Detwiler in the bullpen as a long reliever to open the season. Though the Nationals still like Detwiler as a starter in the long-term, they aren't inclined to have him swap spots with Lannan for now.
"I don't know that Lannan has even relieved in his career," Johnson said. "So it's not something I'm going to even entertain."
That said, the Nationals will still attempt to get Detwiler stretched out over the remainder of the spring in case something happens and he's needed as a starter. He's due to pitch behind Lannan today and then is likely to start a minor-league game later this week, throwing up to 80 pitches.
As was the case at times last season, Johnson will use Detwiler on more of a starter's schedule out of the bullpen, giving him more time off between appearances. Tom Gorzelanny, also slated to open the season in the bullpen, will be used on more of a traditional reliever's schedule.
Detwiler is still getting used to that role.
"I'm a big 'routine' person," he said. "That's what's kind of throwing me off right now: I'm not on the same routine I've been on. That's something I have to adjust to."
All of this appears to leave right-hander Craig Stammen as the odd man out and destined to open the season at Class AAA Syracuse.
"I love Stammen," Johnson said. "It's no secret I liked the job he did in August, him and Gorzo. Ideally, I'd like a long [right-hander and left-hander]. So those are good questions you're asking; they're things I think about every day. But again, it usually sorts itself out if we just give it time."