Associated Press photo
John Lannan tossed four scoreless innings today against the Braves.
"I'm assuming that I'm starting every fifth day," the left-hander said following today's four-inning appearance. "So I'm just going to go from there and start five days from now."
By all accounts, Lannan's assumptions are correct. Despite hope in some corners that Chien-Ming Wang will be able to make his first start of the season, manager Davey Johnson today suggested Wang won't have healed from his hamstring injury in nearly enough time.
Johnson in particular was discouraged by the size of the bruise emanating from Wang's left leg, where he suffered the initial hamstring strain last week.
"He's moving around walking good, but from what I saw today, he's got quite a bit of blood in there," Johnson said. "Before he gets on the mound, I'd say three weeks, maybe a month. I'll have to double-check with the doctor, but I just saw a lot of blood in there."
Wang is scheduled to play catch tomorrow for the first time since injuring himself trying to make a play at first base against the Yankees. But that's only the first step toward a full recovery, and even once healthy he'll need to build up his arm strength and stamina again after totaling only 4 2/3 innings in two Grapefruit League starts to date.
"He can throw," Johnson said. "But I don't see him getting on the mound before that."
All of this leaves Lannan as the Nationals' likely fifth starter once the season begins. The left-hander (Washington's Opening Day starter in 2009 and 2010 and staff leader in wins, starts and innings pitched last year) enjoyed a strong outing today, holding the Braves scoreless for four innings.
Lannan wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He allowed three hits and a walk and gave up a couple of long fly balls that might have been home runs if not for a stiff wind blowing in from left field at Space Coast Stadium.
But Lannan also managed to keep his pitches down in the strike zone and induce plenty of groundballs, much to the lefty's satisfaction.
"There's still stuff I should work on, but it was a step in the right direction," he said. "I don't know how many more outings I have until the season stars, but it was a step in the right direction."
Lannan threw 79 pitches, a high total for only four innings of work, but enough to put him in line with the rest of the Nationals' starters with two weeks to go until Opening Day. He's scheduled to return to the mound and start Sunday against the Mets, then is likely to make his final exhibition on March 30 against the Marlins.