VIERA, Fla. — With Washington Nationals’ right-hander Chien-Ming Wang likely headed to the disabled list for the start of the 2012 season, Nationals manager Davey Johnson confirmed Monday what had been expected since Wang strained his left hamstring on March 15: that John Lannan is on track to be his No. 5 starter.
“John’s my guy,” Johnson said. “I like John. And John can pitch… I don’t know that Lannan has even relieved in his career. So it’s not something I’m going to even entertain.”
How the Nationals would piece together the back-end of the rotation and part of their bullpen was one of the team’s most compelling storylines entering the spring. And from the moment Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo added Edwin Jackson to the team’s starting pitching corps in early February, speculation was rampant that Lannan was on the trading block.
But Rizzo remained firm in saying he was not shopping Lannan and that he never viewed the Nationals’ pitching staff, which contained at least seven capable major league starters, as a surplus.
And when Wang went down, it became infinitely tougher for the Nationals to give up Lannan. Wang has been doing some light running and throwing and while he appears ahead of schedule, Johnson has preached patience.
“Any time you talk about a severe hammy, I always think it’s going to take a month to six weeks from the time of injury. Now, I haven’t done the math but I’ve had enough experience with those things that that’s how long it takes.”
Things could certainly change as the action off the field heats up in this last week of spring training, rosters continue to get trimmed and teams could become more desperate for rotation help, but the Nationals don’t appear too inclined to lose any of their pitchers right now.
What that means, of course, is that left-hander Ross Detwiler will remain in the bullpen as a long man but be kept on something of a starter’s schedule. Detwiler has been stretched out already to about 60 pitches and the Nationals hope to get him to about 80 down here this spring, likely in a minor league game, so that he’s capable of making a quality spot start if necessary.
Tom Gorzelanny will also serve that role but while Johnson will be careful when he uses Detwiler and what his routine is between outings, he’ll be “not so careful” with Gorzelanny.
Gorzelanny, who is more veteran than Detwiler, has made it clear that if he’s in the bullpen he has no desire to be used infrequently and would prefer to be treated like a regular reliever without being kept on any kind of starter’s schedule.
Ideally, Johnson said, he’d have a left-handed long man and a right-handed long man but the Nationals’ roster construction is such that it doesn’t appear that will be possible — which puts Craig Stammen as the odd-man-out in the long relief category.
Stammen has pitched very well this spring and Johnson is a big fan of the right-hander, especially of what he did for the team in September last season. But Stammen has an option remaining so he’ll likely be in the Triple-A rotation, staying stretched out for if and when the Nationals need him at the major league level.
“I love Stammen,” Johnson said. “It’s no secret I liked the job he did. Ideally, I’d like a long right and left… But again, it usually sorts itself out if we just give it time.”