No matter how much Stephen Strasburg wishes they would, the Washington Nationals won't be going back on their promise to shut him down as a precautionary component of his post-surgical career. Strasburg's final start of the season was to be against the Mets on Wednesday night, but after manager Davey Johnson's ad-lib, Strasburg will have to cheer his teammates, including his replacement, from the bench.
The new pitcher isn't an ace like Strasburg, but he's quite familiar to the Nats. And, as reporter Adam Kilgore writes in the Washington Post, left-hander John Lannan is quite capable:
The Nationals take comfort in knowing exactly what they are going to get. Lannan throws his sinker low in the strike zone, induces gobs of ground balls and keeps them in the game. His ceiling is not as high as the other members of the Nationals' flame-throwing rotation, which is why the Nationals optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse out of spring training in favor of Ross Detwiler. But he is a viable, established major league pitcher.
Lannan has made two opening day starts for the Nats. He has accumulated more victories while wearing a Nats uniform than anyone else in history, save for one pitcher. But most of that happened for a losing organization. Being at Syracuse for most of this season, Lannan has missed most of the Nats' rise to the top of the NL East.
With only five spots open in the starting rotation, you might say John Lannan became the fifth Beatle (or is it the sixth?).
Lannan has made two spot starts for the major-league team this season, including a key win against the Braves during a July doubleheader. And now they need him to take Strasburg's place, such as it is. It's a good thing they didn't trade him, even after Lannan made the demand upon being sent away before opening day. It probably was the best move GM Mike Rizzo hasn't made.
Lannan wasn't being unreasonable when he made that trade demand, not at all: He posted a 3.70 ERA in 2011, and his career ERA is slightly above-average since his debut in 2007. So we're definitely not talking about someone content with pitching shutouts in Triple-A. This is a major-league pitcher.
And he gets to resume proving it, in a pennant race this time, starting Wednesday night.
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