The Nationals’ decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg after his start Friday night also jostled their plans for John Lannan. Rather than Strasburg making his final start of the season Wednesday in New York, Lannan will make his first as he joins the rotation for the remainder of the year.
Last week, Manger Davey Johnson had said he expected Lannan to make his first start against the Braves. But with Strasburg’s season over, Lannan will take his place this week. He last pitched Aug. 30, when he closed his season at Class AAA with a second consecutive complete-game shutout.
“We’re just gonna act like I skipped a start,” Lannan said. “I didn’t pitch, but I followed my routine. I had a pretty good one going, so I just kept on doing that. Got my lifts in, did my running, did everything necessary. I threw three bullpen [sessions]. I just acted as if I skipped a couple starts and now I’m pretty much on the routine as if I was pitching Wednesday. So it worked out.”
Lannan, 27, spent almost the entire season in the minors. He started opening day for the Nationals in 2009 and 2010, but with Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson in the fold, the Nationals had a glut of starters and chose Ross Detwiler over Lannan. Rather than trade Lannan, they kept him in reserve so they would have an established starter to replace Strasburg. Lannan made two major league starts this season, coming up twice to pitch one half of a doubleheader, going 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA.
After his excellent finish in the minors, Lannan said he would probably not be able to stay in the same groove. But he also said it did not really matter.
“Whatever happened there, good or bad, I’m not going to say I did good down there or I did bad down there,” Lannan said. “It just doesn’t translate. It is what it is down there, but it’s a whole different mindset right now. I just tried to stay as fresh as I could in the bullpens. I knew I couldn’t create what I’m going to feel on Wednesday. But looking forward to something, the last bullpen I threw, the mentality changed.”
Lannan will have 12 days of rest between starts. Johnson wanted Lannan to take one time through his rotation off, in part because he threw 122 pitches in his final Class AAA start. He has throw 161 2/3 innings this season between the majors and minors.
“I feel great,” Lannan said. “I felt good in those two starts. Obviously, it’s different. I’m not throwing in front of 200 people here, so the adrenaline is probably more up here than it is down here. It’s just something that happens. It feels great because I haven’t been in a lot of pressure situations down there, but I’m ready.”
As Johnson promised, Strasburg traveled to New York with the Nationals. Despite the final decision on his season, he still could not escape the coverage of his shutdown. MLB Network played on the clubhouse television sets. Right as Strasburg walked in, the announcer was saying, “ … and the Nats begin life without Stephen Strasburg.”
“Two seconds?” Strasburg said, rolling his eyes. During batting practice, Strasburg sprinted across center field as he shagged. When he caught a fly ball, he tossed it back to the infield underhanded.