Lannan poised to pick up where he left off in 2011

Nationals left-handed starting pitcher John Lannan is enjoying his off season and will begin throwing soon as he gets ready for 2011 spring training. It was a roller coaster summer for Lannan, as he fought off a tendon problem, a demotion to Harrisburg, and then rebounded nicely to finish with a flourish.

Lannan ended up with an 8-8 record and a 4.65 ERA, but in his final 10 starts, he posted a 6-3 record with a 3.41 ERA. He allowed 4 ER only twice in that span.

Lannan says overcoming the tendon injury gave him the confidence he needed for this upcoming campaign.

"That is my main goal every year is to come in and improve as a pitcher," said Lannan.

"But coming back (from the injury) I definitely felt stronger and better. I took the next step I always wanted to take. There were some games were I felt pretty good out there."

Lannan paid attention to the postseason and watched the Giants and Rangers battle for the title. He picked up some ideas on how to refine his game by studying the southpaws for San Francisco.

"Watching the playoffs and seeing what works with other lefties, I definitely picked up some stuff that I would like to work on and see myself improve at," said Lannan. "I would like to work on getting my curveball better and slider and maybe develop a cutter someday down the road."

"In the case of the Giants, that is where we want to be. When (Stephen) Strasburg comes back healthy and (Jordan) Zimmermann has a full year under his belt, we are going to have the pitchers in place to have a rotation like (San Francisco)."

Lannan also has diagnosed what got him into trouble last season and when he started to feel pain. He is determined to not repeat that mistake this time around.

"I think it was just a little bit of overthrowing that got me into the tendon problem I had," said Lannan. "I feel good now. I am definitely going to remember what I did last year in the offseason and not try to do too much this time."

When I caught up with Lannan, I had just finished speaking with author Jane Leavy about her now book on Mickey Mantle called "The Last Boy". In it she says Mantle described having a recurring nightmare where he was late for the game and the taxi was stuck in traffic.

Lannan says he has had similar nightmares as a season approaches.

"Those nightmares happen in early to late January when you start throwing and you get into that spring training 'itch' mode when you want to get down to Florida and start playing," said Lannan. "I have had dreams where I have shown up to the game and I didn't have cleats so I had to pitch barefoot."

He spends time in the off season with teammates Craig Stammen and Tyler Clippard. Lannan will visit Stammen in Dayton soon and says that hanging with the same teammates a few years in a row is building team chemistry and camaraderie that will help the Nationals during the rigors of 162 game seasons. He plans to begin work outs soon with former Nats pitcher Ron Villone.

"You go year round with these guys so much it creates this bond that should be unbreakable," said Lannan. "When you go out on the field outside you always have each others backs. Whenever they need something that should be the type of situation we should be in (where we can help out). That kind of teamwork and sportsmanship goes a long way on the baseball field as well."

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