PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - This spring is a little different for John Lannan.
Instead of going into Grapefruit League competition knowing that he’s got a spot in the Nationals’ rotation all but guaranteed, Lannan is now aware that his chances of making the Nats’ starting five are dependent on how he performs in spring training.
Still, Lannan says he’s approaching this spring as he would any other.
“I compete every year,” Lannan said in the Nationals clubhouse moments ago. “I’ve competed for a spot every year, I feel. I never took a spot for granted. It just drives me to learn something every day and become a better pitcher.”
Lannan’s first outing of spring - and thus his first chance to impress manager Davey Johnson - went fairly smoothly tonight, as he allowed one run on three hits with a walk and a strikeout in three innings of work against the Mets.
“I felt good,” Lannan said. “The first one’s always, I guess you could say, the weirdest one, trying to get back in the swing of things, working on pregame stuff. The first inning was a little tough, but I got into kind of a rhythm in the second and third, so I’m kind of happy with it.”
The lefty said he was pleased with the way he got ahead in the count more times than not, as he threw first-pitch strikes to eight of the 12 hitters he faced.
“My two-seam felt good, my four-seam felt good,” Lannan said. “My offspeed pitches I was keeping down, which is always important. The one I did leave up to (Daniel) Murphy, he hit it up the middle. After that, everything else, as long as it’s down, I’m happy with it.”
It’s got to be tough for a player to strike a balance between competing for playing time with just getting work in during spring training. On one hand, he wants to use spring training to make sure he’s in good condition and is ready to play once the season begins, but on the other, he wants to perform well, put up solid statistics and impress his manager.
That’s a line Lannan will have to walk this spring.
“You really can’t look at the results that much, as long as you feel good,” Lannan said. “But you always want to compete. I’m competing for a spot. I’m trying to go out and compete against teams that I’ll be facing during the regular season. I’m trying to get my work in but I’m trying to also compete.”
We’re currently in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Nats leading the Mets 2-1.
Update: The Nats got their first Grapefruit League win this spring, beating the Mets 3-1.
Washington got a solo homer from Rick Ankiel, and sacrifice flies from Mark Teahen and Jhonathan Solano.
Dan Kolko was named MASNsports.com’s Nationals beat writer after spending the last four years covering the Baltimore Ravens for MASN and also serving as the Web site’s deputy managing editor. A University of Delaware graduate originally from Silver Spring, Md., Dan grew up a die-hard baseball fan and is thrilled for the opportunity to cover the Nationals. Before joining MASN, Dan worked in production at Comcast SportsNet in Bethesda, Md., and also interned at the “George Michael Sports Machine” in Washington, D.C.
Follow Dan Kolko on Twitter: @DanKolko