With the incredible Washington Nationals starting pitching staff this season, many have completely forgotten about John Lannan toiling down in Triple-A Syracuse. A few doubleheaders are coming up in the next couple months for the Nats, so it’s probably about time to remember that he’s there.
Lannan struggled through most of the season in Syracuse, posting a 4.66 ERA and a 1.49 ERA in 14 starts. However, June has shown that Lannan has settled in quite well. He’s posted a 2.67 ERA with 15 Ks and just 6 walks in four starts this month. He gave up more than one run in just one of those starts. He also threw a complete game in his first June start.
The Nats former No. 1 starter won’t take the place of anyone in the rotation, though, if he’s called up for the July 21 doubleheader. He’d join as a supplement because of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The newest CBA allows for a 26th man on the 25-man roster on the days of a doubleheader, and Lannan is a possible candidate to take advantage of that clause.
The Nats have already used their minor-league option on Lannan to send him down at the start of this year. If they call him up to make a start for that doubleheader, they won’t have to use an option on another pitcher, and the Nats bullpen is pretty well solidified at this point. It also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to bring in an offensive or bench player as an extra man.
Instead of bringing up a starter, the Nats could also have Chien-Ming Wang start that day if they feel that the issues that have caused his struggles are resolved. Then, the Nats could bring up another reliever as some support for the two games.
There are obvious issues in bringing up John Lannan, though. Namely, the drama associated with the call up. Lannan and his agency, CAA, have been vocal in their frustration throughout the season, and it could create some problems with the call up. Lannan believes he should be pitching every fifth day at the major-league level. Everyone in the organization seems to be comfortable with the situation at this point, as they should be, but Lannan obviously wants to be at the show.
His situation is quite unique. Not many guys go from “ace” to Triple-A in the course of a couple years when their performance from year to year stayed about the same. It’s just a product of the vastly improved pitching staff that the Nationals have acquired in recent seasons. Lannan understands this deep down, I’m sure, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with on a daily basis.
If Chien-Ming Wang is still with the Nats by July 21, and he will be by all expectations, he could get one of the two starts on that doubleheader day. If I had to guess, I'd expect Chien-Ming Wang to get the start, but that will depend on injuries between now and then and Wang's progression in the bullpen. This is the reason that the Nats want pitching depth: options. It’s for doubleheaders, but also for inevitable injuries and late-season shutdowns for guys like Stephen Strasburg. Lannan could still be moved before the July 31 trade deadline, but he may get one more chance to throw for the Nats this year.