- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Washington Nationals and John Lannan earned the distinction of being the first to argue an arbitration case in Major League Baseball this year as the two sides presented their cases in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Wednesday, a source confirmed.

Lannan and the Nationals could not come to an agreement on a raise from his $2.75 million 2011 salary prior to the Jan. 18 deadline for the sides to file arbitration numbers. At that point, sources said, the negotiations were put on hold. Teams are allowed to continue negotiations in hopes of settling up to the point of a hearing, but terms couldn’t be agreed upon before Lannan’s hearing.

The left-hander, who was 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts last season, filed at $5.7 million while the Nationals countered with $5 million. According to the Associated Press, which first reported the hearing was held, the arbitrators were Robert Herzog, Elizabeth Neumeier and John Skonier.

A decision is expected to come Thursday, and the arbiters will decide on either Lannan’s figure or Washington’s with no chance at middle ground. Lannan, who served as the team’s opening day starter in years past, is expected to compete with right-hander Chien-Ming Wang and left-hander Ross Detwiler for the fourth or fifth rotation spot this spring with one of the three shifting to the bullpen as a long reliever.

Lannan is the eighth player the Nationals have gone to arbitration with. It also marks their first hearing since they defeated pitchers Brian Bruney and Sean Burnett in 2010. The Nationals have won five of their seven arbitration hearings.

Durbin newest bullpen option

The Nationals agreed to terms on a minor league deal with right-handed reliever Chad Durbin. Durbin, a 34-year-old veteran journeyman, pitched to a 5.53 ERA in 68 1/3 innings for the Cleveland Indians in 2011 and joins a host of relievers who’ll battle for limited space in the Nationals bullpen.

The Nationals already have invited non-roster right-handers Jeff Fulchino, Waldis Joaquin and Rafael Martin to spring training. They’ll also come to camp with 19 pitchers on the active roster, including right-handed relievers Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Brad Lidge, Henry Rodriguez, Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen and Ryan Perry. Left-handers Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny also are expected to be part of the bullpen, as well as whomever loses out in the rotation battle among Lannan, Wang and Detwiler.

Washington is the sixth major league organization for Durbin, a one-time starter. He’s also made stops in Kansas City, Arizona, Detroit, Philadelphia and Cleveland.