- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

ATLANTA | John Lannan’s first Opening Day start was barely hours old when the young left-hander came to an important conclusion.

“I can’t do that again,” he said.

No, Lannan has no intention of offering up a repeat performance of Monday’s ragged, three-inning start at Florida when he returns to the mound Saturday against the Atlanta Braves. After getting tagged by the Marlins for six runs and six hits, he is refocusing his attention on start No. 2, believing he can enjoy better results with only a minor tweak to his approach.

Lannan said his problems on Opening Day — and in his final spring training tuneup, when he gave up seven runs and 10 hits to the Toronto Blue Jays — stemmed from trying to do too much. Instead of pitching like the composed control artist who had nine wins last season, Lannan tried to overpower the opposition.

“That’s not how I pitch,” he said. “I don’t have overpowering stuff where I can just do that.”

After watching some video with pitching coach Randy St. Claire, Lannan returned to the bullpen Wednesday for a side throwing session and came away “feeling right again.”

Why did he get out of his usual approach?

“I guess I was trying to do too much,” Lannan said. “I don’t think there’s any pressure on me. I just think I’m trying to do too much. I tried to do something I’ve never done before. I’ve just got to be nice and easy, go back to the way I throw.”

Belliard, Hernandez still hurting

Neither of Washington’s top two second basemen is ready to resume playing, though it could be only a matter of days before Anderson Hernandez and Ronnie Belliard return.

Belliard, who left Wednesday’s game after aggravating a back injury, said he was improving even though he wasn’t ready to be in the lineup Friday against the Braves.

“I’m feeling better,” he said. “A couple more days. I’m day-to-day.”

Hernandez played five innings in an intrasquad game Friday in Viera, Fla., getting two at-bats and tripling once. Out since March 25 with a strained hamstring, Hernandez is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday. The Nationals, though, want him to get more at-bats and progress to a full game in the field before sending him on a quick rehab assignment.

There’s no set timetable for Hernandez’s return, but it’s at least several days away.

“It all depends how quick he can come around,” manager Manny Acta said. “We just want him to be able to play seven, then nine innings in the field and be able to put him out there 100 percent.”

Villone signs

The Nationals signed veteran left-hander Ron Villone to a minor league contract, giving the organization some depth should Mike Hinckley and Wil Ledezma struggle in the bullpen.

Villone, 39, has a 56-59 record and a 4.75 ERA in 654 career games with 11 clubs, most recently the St. Louis Cardinals. He’ll report to Class AAA Syracuse and join a pitching staff that lacks a left-hander.

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