MIAMI -- John Lannan, who surprisingly lost his spot in the Nationals' rotation at the end of spring training and has been pitching at Class AAA Syracuse since, is expected to return to the big leagues Saturday and start one game of the Nationals' doubleheader against the Braves.
Asked who would be used to pitch that day, Davey Johnson didn't explicitly name Lannan. The Nationals manager said the club would promote one of three minor-league starters: Lannan, Yunesky Maya or Ryan Perry.
"So it'll be one of them," Johnson said before adding with a smirk: "Who do you think?"
Lannan, who is pitching tonight for Syracuse at Pawtucket, is best lined up to make the start. The 27-year-old left-hander enters tonight's game with a 6-8 record and 4.60 ERA in 17 total starts, but he's posted a 3.14 ERA over his last eight outings, allowing one earned run in five of those.
Lannan also has far and away the most big-league experience of the candidates, with a 38-51 ERA and 4.00 ERA in 128 career starts.
He was set to earn the final spot in the Nationals' Opening Day rotation over Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler, and during the final week of spring training, Johnson said "John's my guy" when asked if Lannan would open the season as his No. 5 starter.
But during the Nationals' final exhibition game on April 3, Johnson informed the left-hander (who has a $5 million guaranteed contract) he would be optioned to Syracuse and that the club was going with Detwiler instead.
Lannan then formally requested a trade, and general manager Mike Rizzo has since made inquiries to other clubs. No offers have met Rizzo's satisfaction, though, and the GM has wanted to keep Lannan in the system in case he's needed due to injury, a doubleheader or in September once ace Stephen Strasburg is shut down.
Lannan will most likely be recalled for only one day and then optioned back to Class AAA, and the Nationals won't need to remove anyone else from the roster to make room for him. Per the new collective bargaining agreements, teams are allowed to add a 26th player for doubleheaders.