The Washington Times - March 15, 2012, 06:37PM

VIERA, Fla. — John Lannan has thrown 751 innings in a Washington Nationals’ uniform and not one of them has come as a reliever. Even in spring training, the left-hander couldn’t remember ever having to make the walk to the mound from the bullpen with innings already posted on the board.

He did it Thursday.


With Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan in competition for the team’s fifth starter spot, the Nationals have had them pitching on the same day this spring. Until Thursday, it worked out. When Lannan made his first start, Wang pitched a simulated game. When their second turn came up, the Nationals had a split squad. But with the New York Yankees in town there was only one place for them both to get their work in. Lannan drew the relief straw.

Still, the Nationals tried to set it up so that Lannan would be removed only slightly from his normal routine. 

Then Chien-Ming Wang strained his left hamstring on an infield grounder and everything went haywire. While Wang was sent for further testing on the hamstring, Chad Durbin came in to finish the third inning and pitch the fourth while Lannan warmed.

“I’m not used to coming in in the (fifth),” Lannan said. “I tried to do my best to kind of follow my routine but it’s something that I’ve never done before… I had some kind of idea (when I’d be coming in) and then Wanger went down and that idea went out the door. It was definitely different.”

Lannan felt “unbelievable” in the bullpen, he said, and he looked sharp in his first two innings. He struck out Brett Gardner and coaxed a double play ball out of Andruw Jones after a single to Russell Martin in the fifth. Then he got two fly outs and a strike out in the sixth inning. 

But after that, Lannan’s pitches were up in the zone a bit more — more overthrowing from his pitchers as Nationals manager Davey Johnson saw it — and the Yankees strung together five straight singles to rattle him in the seventh.

“I felt really good in the bullpen, I felt really good in those first two innings, but something happened in that third and fourth,” Lannan said. “I just kind of got my work in but I wasn’t happy with it, at all.”

Lannan finished the four-inning outing surrendering six runs (but only four of them earned) off seven hits and one walk. He struck out two and likened the appearance to his previous one against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland where he felt he made some positive strides but also had some negative occurrences.

“I made some good pitches, I made some bad pitches,” Lannan said. “Just got to build off of the positive and learn from the negative. That’s what it was. It was a start of positives and negatives. I just look at it as just getting ready for the season. If I do that, I’ll be fine.”

Lannan has been the subject of trade rumors all spring, essentially since the Nationals signed Edwin Jackson in early February. But the Nationals have maintained that they are not actively shopping the left-hander and while they’ve fielded several calls on him, they’re not going to dump him for what they feel is an inadequate return. 

With Wang’s injury status now uncertain, the chances Lannan is traded become even smaller.