Nationals Journal

"I'm trying to figure it out," said Nationals left-hander John Lannan, who has allowed 38 base runners over his last 13 innings pitched. (Jonathan Newton/washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lannan optioned to AA Harrisburg

For the past two seasons, John Lannan established himself as the Washington Nationals' most reliable starting pitcher. He twice started on opening day. Over 2008 and 2009, he pitched more than 385 total innings with an ERA under 3.90. Only 22 other pitchers did that.

For now, though, Lannan is no longer part of the Nationals' rotation. Washington optioned Lannan to Class AA Harrisburg on Monday to straighten out his mechanics and, perhaps more importantly, rebuild his confidence.

In his last three starts, Lannan has a 10.38 ERA while allowing 38 base runners in 13 innings.

"John was searching for some answers here on the major league level," Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said. "He's an established major league guy for us. But I felt it would be best for him to work out his problems mechanically and stuff-wise at a place where there's not as much stress and pressure on him as the big league level."

Rizzo, Manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty decided Lannan should be sent to Class AA Harrisburg, as opposed to Class AAA Syracuse, because Lannan has history with Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin.

"I'm trying to figure it out," Lannan, 25, said Sunday after his start. "I can't go out there and try to find stuff during the game. I can't go out there and start changing stuff, which I tried to do today. It's not working."

The Nationals hope Lannan returns "as soon as possible," Rizzo said. "Our expectations are he's going to be a consistent performer for us and be a 200-inning type of guy for us. The sooner he irons things out and gets comfortable, the better, when he gets up here and gives us the best chance to win every fifth day."

In the meantime, the Nationals recalled reliever Joel Peralta, 34, from Class AAA Syracuse. Peralta, serving primarily as the Sky Chiefs' closer, saved 20 games with no blown saves and held a 1.08 ERA. Peralta has appeared in 221 major league games across five seasons for the Angels, Royals and Rockies. He is 4-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 273 1/3 innings.

The Nationals will use a four-man rotation and an eight-man bullpen until June 29, the first day they will require a starter to replace Lannan. The most likely candidate seems to be Craig Stammen. Ross Detwiler, rehabbing from preseason hip surgery in the minors, will "need a little more time in the minor leagues" before returning to the majors. The Nationals reinstated Detwiler from the 60-day disabled list Monday and optioned him to Harrisburg.

Staying on schedule

Even with Lannan's demotion, Stephen Strasburg will remain on his once-every-fifth-day schedule. The Nationals, barring injury or rain, have mapped out his pitching outline until the all-star break. In the start before the break, Strasburg will receive an extra day of rest. He'll make four more starts before the break: Wednesday vs. the Royals, Monday at the Braves, July 3 vs. the Mets and July 9 vs. the Giants.

The Nationals will use the all-star break to rest Strasburg and stunt his inning total, which will allow them to pitch him deeper into the season. The Nationals open the second half in Florida against the Marlins, but Strasburg may skip that series altogether, Riggleman said.

-- Adam Kilgore

© 2010 The Washington Post Company