Strasburg’s replacement may not be far away

WASHINGTON — For all the talk about the Nationals seeking a replacement on the trade market for Stephen Strasburg if they shut him down in September, they may not even have to look that far.

Left-hander John Lannan made a spot start for the Nats on Saturday night in the 27-year-old’s 2012 debut, after starting 128 games for the club since 2007. He was excellent in the 5-2 victory and, given his familiarity with the club and how much the players and Davey Johnson enjoy playing with him, Lannan seems to be the most natural replacement for the few starts the club will need to fill later in the year.

“There’s no question,” Johnson said when asked if Lannan seems like the best option to replace Strasburg if/when the time comes. “I liked him last year. He had his rough times like everybody else, but he’s one heck of a competitor. He showed that tonight.”

There was a sort of “Win one for the Gipper” feel to this start after how much time Lannan has spent with the club over the years (he’s 38-51 with a 4.00 ERA and at least 25 starts in each of the last four seasons) and the fact that he was left out of the rotation after Spring Training.

Saturday, he walked two and gave up three hits and two runs in the first inning. But, once he settled down, as Johnson said, “he was as close to unhittable after that as you can get.” He went seven strong, scattering five hits and the two runs while striking out three and walking one.

“He’s had nothing but success in the big-league level,” closer Tyler Clippard said. “Done such great things for our team up here. It just is a testament to how good we are, how good our staff is. He deserves to be here, but he’s doing some things in Triple-A, working out some things he needs to work out, and when he gets here, he’s gonna contribute in a big way for us down the stretch.

I think he understands that, we all understand that. It was good to have him here and get his feet wet here and hopefully we see him soon.”

The question Johnson continues to ask rhetorically is, when the club is already paying a starter like Lannan, and valuable pieces it doesn’t want to give up, why go out and get a rental starter for a few starts down the stretch? It’s hard to say how many starts that pitcher would be needed — depending on the September schedule and how the postseason shakes out (and if the club makes it at all), but knowing you can turn to a guy who’s already in your organization is certainly a viable option.

“The whole situation, it’s a business,” Lannan said about spending this year in the Minors. “As much as you love the game of baseball, there’s other stuff that comes along with it. It is what it is. I was kind of upset when it first happened, but now as things are unfolding and things are going well for us, I think that I’m really excited to help this team out down the stretch.”

— Joey Nowak

1 Comment

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