Lannan pleased with new deal, ready for spring training

Nationals left-handed starter John Lannan avoided arbitration last week, signing a one-year contract reportedly worth $2.75 million. This was a significant step for Lannan after last year’s odyssey from an arm injury to Double-A demotion, then back to D.C. and a powerful 6-3 finish.

Lannan was very pleased to avoid an arbitration hearing and get a deal completed well before spring training.

“I think overall it went well,” Lannan said. “I think both sides are happy not to have to go to arbitration. I am glad it is done and now I can focus on the season.”

Lannan fought through a strained flexor tendon in his pitching arm in 2009 and came on strong in the season’s final two months. Despite a loss to the Phillies in the season finale, Lannan went 6-2 in nine previous starts from Aug. 6 through Sept. 21. The Nats went 7-2 in those games. His ERA dropped by 1.04 during that torrid streak.

Lannan has also been keeping a close eye on the team’s offseason acquisitions as the Nats brought on left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, outfielder Jayson Werth and first baseman Adam LaRoche since we last spoke in November.

“As a left-handed starter, having another lefty around will really help me,” Lannan said. “It makes the rotation a lot better. I have seen Gorzelanny pitch for some time and have been impressed.

“I will pick his brain on facing teams in the NL Central. I did the same thing when Sean Burnett came to the team. It really helped to talk to Burnett about facing the Cardinals and others. I learned a lot from those talks. It will be the same type of deal here with Gorzelanny.”

Lannan wants to just stay healthy after fighting through a demotion to Harrisburg early last year, when he had to learn not to overcompensate for the tendon injury.

“Last year, I ran into that problem with my pitching arm and I kept trying to adjust my arm slot,” Lannan said. “I won’t have to do that this season. Every year, my top goal is to stay consistent, get the ball every five days and give our team a chance to win. I want to build off the way I felt at the end of the year. There will be times where you may have a couple of inconsistent outings but you just have to try to stay strong the entire season.”

Lannan also likes the changes the Nats have made for 2011 and is looking forward to getting on the field next month.

“I have been very impressed,” Lannan said. “Obviously, every year the team has looked to get better and (general manager) Mike Rizzo has done a nice job of filling those holes. We have a good core of guys coming back and everything will start to fall into place down the road, especially with Stephen Strasburg returning, and Bryce Harper and others.”

Lannan has been watching the NFL playoffs and says he will go with the slight underdog in Super Bowl XLV.

“I am more of a Giants fan, but Jets fans were definitely heartbroken after that loss,” Lannan said. “I like the Steelers in the Super Bowl. I think they are coming in as underdogs (Packer favored by 2.5 points) and they will take that to heart and upset the Packers.”

Lannan says it is freezing in New Jersey and he is definitely looking forward to getting to Viera, Fla., for spring training Feb. 8 so he can get used to the warm weather. That should be easy enough.

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