The Washington Times - September 2, 2012, 12:13PM

By Tom Schad

John Lannan wandered the Nationals’ clubhouse Sunday morning with a smile. After spending all but two games this season at AAA-Syracuse, the 27-year-old southpaw was excited to see his old teammates again.

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Actually, he’s just excited to be back in the big leagues – period.

“It’s a weird feeling because the last couple times I was here, I had the flight back to Syracuse to not look forward to, but kind of to think about. And now it looks like I’ll be here for an extended amount of time – more than two days,” he said.

“Being back in games that matter, and just the excitement, the town’s buzzing. It’s a great feeling.”

After making at least 25 starts for the organization in each of the past four seasons, Lannan – and his $5 million salary – were shipped to Syracuse in April. He went 9-11 there and finished with a 4.30 ERA before being recalled to the Nationals Saturday. His time in AAA was forgettable, to say the least.

“I’m done with Syracuse,” he said. “I did it, and now it’s just looking forward. I made that [promise] to myself – just don’t talk about it anymore.”

Lannan was the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in 2009 and 2010 but found himself the odd man out in a crowded starting rotation on Opening Day this year. He’s rejoined the team as the presumptive replacement for Stephen Strasburg, who only has a few starts remaining before his team-imposed innings limit.

In his two spot starts with the Nationals this season, Lannan is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA.

“It says a lot about John, being able to do that – going down there pretty much all year,” fellow starter Jordan Zimmermann said. “He’s definitely mentally strong. It would be tough on a lot of people, but I think he’s one of the guys that can definitely do it.”

Lannan doesn’t know when he’ll take the mound next for the Nationals. Assuming he takes Strasburg’s spot in the rotation, it will probably be September 19 against the Dodgers or September 24 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Whenever the time comes, he’ll be ready.

“Whenever I get a shot, I’m going to try to step in like I have the last two times I’ve pitched to come in here and just help the team win,” Lannan said. “Whatever opportunity they give me, I’m going to take full advantage of it.”