When the Washington Nationals move on past the shutdown of Stephen Strasburg, left-hander John Lannan figures to be the guy to fill in the necessary starts for the rest of the regular season. Lannan is still expected to join the rotation, but he won't necessarily be just stepping into Strasburg's turn.
Manager Davey Johnson spoke with Lannan and gave him a "rough idea" when he would get his first post-Strasburg start: "probably" during the Nationals' series at the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 14-16. Strasburg's final game is expected to be Sept. 12, with that next turn coming up Sept. 19 vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I told him that I felt like after the long season, and he pitched a heck of a game the last time out, that I wasn't even going to worry about getting him in a game until his next time to ... start," Johnson said Tuesday. "That's another five days. It's like I'm skipping him a start. Today would normally be his day to pitch if he was a regular, but I'm skipping today. It's like if a guy, I thought, had a little tired arm. I'm just going to skip him and then five more days I'll think about getting him in a game for relief to keep him sharp."
Lannan is 9-5 with a 3.20 ERA in his career against the Braves, with that success likely being a contributing factor in his potentially pitching in Atlanta.
But if the 27-year-old starts one of those games, it would mean shuffling the rotation around. Ross Detwiler, Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez are slated to start in that series. But given that the Braves as a team are hitting .246 against lefties, Lannan's presence could mean three southpaws vs. Atlanta.
"Somebody might get pushed back because there's a day off in there," Johnson said.
Lannan starred at Triple-A Syracuse in August, and he is back in the big leagues after getting sent down after spring training.
"I think it's to catch his breath and give him time to adjust and then his kind of tune-up will probably be out of the 'pen," Johnson said. "He doesn't have an aversion to pitching out of the 'pen. He just didn't want to pitch out of the 'pen at the start of the season."
As for what will happen to the rotation after Strasburg is shut down, Johnson wasn't showing his hand. There are some days off that will affect things, but ultimately it's his choice how or if starters get moved around.
"I'll do whatever I want to do," Johnson said.
Morse back in lineup
Michael Morse was lifted from Monday's game against the Chicago Cubs by Johnson, who was concerned about Morse's tender right hand. Morse was none too happy about it, but he was back in the lineup Tuesday.
"He said he was fine. I don't think he wants to talk to me because I took him out of that game. I'm always going to be concerned," Johnson said. "That one slipped by me a little bit, that he had complained."
Morse has dealt with issues with the outside of his thumb and his wrist recently.
"I think it's both of them. It's no different than Jayson [Werth's] calf, a little spasm," Johnson said. "I try to get close with the trainers. I try to get in there every day and see who's been in there. ... Guys don't usually go in there unless they got something bothering them."
Corey Brown is back with the Nationals as a September call-up, but the outfielder will likely have to bide his time to get any chance to play. Washington has Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore as extra outfielders already, so it might be hard for Brown to crack the lineup.
"Well, nobody's hurt," Johnson said. "I'll probably think of something. But he's a little bit behind Bernie in the pecking order. I might be able to get him an at-bat here and there, bring him in for defense."
The 27-year-old hit .285 with 25 homers for Syracuse, playing every day. Now, he waits.
"I think for anyone it might be a little tough at first just trying to get used to another role. But knowing that this is going to be my role this year, and who knows how long, obviously I'm definitely going to accept it and just try to make the best of it," Brown said. "If I get up for a pinch hit [or] for defense just try to go out there play as hard as I can and help the team out."
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