When Davey Johnson told John Lannan he was being sent down

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Davey Johnson and John Lannan are both long gone from the Nats organization, and Lannan’s demotion to Class AAA Syracuse is now nearly two years in the past.

But there’s a long passage about the former Nats starter in John Feinstein’s new book about minor league baseball, “Where Nobody Knows Your Name.” I have to believe it would be interesting to many Nats fans.

You’ll recall that Lannan’s position in the starting rotation was made less secure before the 2012 season by the acquisitions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson. Feinstein writes that 10 days before the Nats headed north to start the season, Johnson told Lannan he would be the team’s fifth starter, and that he and his wife then signed a lease for a place in Foggy Bottom. But just before the season started, Johnson told Lannan what was happening. Via Kilgore:

The decision comes one year after Lannan, twice the Nationals’ opening day starter, won 10 games with a 3.70 ERA. Lannan, making $5 million this season, is the highest-paid player in baseball history to be optioned to the minor leagues before the end of spring training. The left-hander is also the first healthy pitcher to post a sub-4.00 ERA and get optioned to the minors before the end of the following spring.

Lannan learned about the move during the third inning of Tuesday’s 8-7 loss to Boston. Manager Davey Johnson broke the news to Lannan in the dugout at Nationals Park.

“Actually I was going to have [the conversation] before the game, and then I said, ‘No, no,’ ” Johnson said. “I kind of put it off, put it off, and I was going to have it right before the game, and I said, ‘I’ll do it during the game.’

Here’s Feinstein, writing about what happened next, via CBS Washington:

“I was sitting in the dugout taking it easy when [shortstop] Ian Desmond came in during the third inning and said he needed a pair of sunglasses,” Lannan said. “I went up the tunnel to get him some, and I heard Davey [Johnson] coming up behind me as I got to the clubhouse.

“He said, ‘Hey, come into my office for a minute.’ I’m not sure why he said it, but he also said, ‘Don’t worry, you aren’t getting traded.’ So I had no idea what it was about.

“I got in there and he started talking about making tough decisions and how well Ross [Detwiler] had been pitching. After a couple of minutes it suddenly hit me that he was sending me down. I was completely stunned. I’m not even sure I heard anything he said the last couple of minutes. When he stopped, I looked at him and said, ‘You’re sending me down? Seriously? You’re sending me down?’ I couldn’t believe it. I’m sure I vented for a little while. I was angry. Finally, I went back in the clubhouse and asked to see [general manager Mike] Rizzo.

“I vented some more. I don’t think I said or did anything unprofessional, but I was really upset. It just caught me completely off guard. One minute I’m getting Ian a pair of sunglasses; the next minute I’m packing for Syracuse.”

The next day, Lannan would request a trade, although he obviously came back to Washington later in the season.

Read the full excerpt on Lannan here, and buy the book here.

(Full disclosure: Feinstein, a Post contributor, has long been an idol of mine, even though he often says that I’m not living up to my potential.)

(Via @rocket1124)

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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