in a stunning development on the final day of the spring, the Washington Nationals optioned 27-year-old left-hander John Lannan and his $5 million salary to Triple-A Syracuse.
Lannan, the second-highest-paid pitcher on the Nationals’ staff behind only Edwin Jackson, who is making $11 million, was 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011 but his role on the 2012 Nationals seemed tenuous from the moment they signed Jackson in early February.
Speculation about the Nationals optioning or trading Lannan was rampant for much of the early part of the spring as the Nationals came into camp with a surplus of starting pitching. But after Chien-Ming Wang strained his left Hamstring on March 15, those rumblings died down and Nationals manager Davey Johnson named Lannan as his fifth starter late in the spring.
“John’s my guy,” Johnson said on March 26 when asked about the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
That left left-hander Ross Detwiler in the bullpen as a long man with fellow lefty Tom Gorzelanny, a less-than ideal situation of course as Johnson yearned for a right-handed long man as well. With the decision to send Lannan to the minor leagues, Detwiler shifts to the starting rotation while Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen both earn spots on the team’s Opening Day roster in the bullpen.
Mattheus will serve in a set-up role while Stammen fits the right-handed long relief role the team had been lacking.
A former first-round pick, Detwiler was moved into the Nationals’ rotation late in the 2011 season and impressed many in the organization down the stretch. His raw stuff has tantalized the Nationals for years but it wasn’t until last year he finally showed it consistently at the major league level.
In nine starts from Aug. 4 to the end of the season, Detwiler was 4-5 with a 3.20 ERA, a stretch that included a dominant 7 1/3 inning scoreless performance against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he allowed just three hits.
“It’s really more about Ross Detwiler,” Johnson said after Tuesday’s exhibition loss to the Boston Red Sox when asked about the decision to option Lannan.
Johnson said he informed Lannan of the decision during the third inning on Tuesday.
The Washington Post was the first to report the move.
– The Nationals also released Chad Durbin, who subsequently signed with the Atlanta Braves.