Johnson on Lannan: “We’re not trading him. We’re keeping him”

CHICAGO - The Nationals understand John Lannan is angry and frustrated with being bumped out of the rotation and sent down to Triple-A Syracuse.

They even appreciate the fact that he feels the way he does, because, as general manager Mike Rizzo says, “If he was any other way, I would wonder about him.”

But the fact that Lannan has requested a trade doesn’t change anything in Rizzo or manager Davey Johnson’s minds. They’re going to keep Lannan at Syracuse and are in no rush to dump the lefty for less than what they feel is the proper value.

“We’re not trading him,” Johnson said during his pregame session with reporters. “We’re keeping him.”

Rizzo said that trade interest in Lannan has been “mild” throughout the winter and spring. The issue in dealing Lannan is his $5 million salary, which has proven to be an impediment to a trade. Teams either want the Nationals to eat a large portion of that salary, which Rizzo is unwilling to do, or are unwilling to take on Lannan’s contract and part with what the Nats feel is the appropriate level of talent to complete a deal.

While a trade appears unlikely at this point, Rizzo will continue to field calls should they come in. And the Nats are confident that Lannan will either be back contributing for them this season, or he’ll eventually be dealt elsewhere.

“The last thing I told him was that you’re going to help us in the big leagues this year, or you’re going to help somebody in the big leagues this year,” Rizzo said. “That was the final statement that I made to him.”

The Nationals had originally said that Lannan would be their fifth starter to begin the season, with Chien-Ming Wang rehabbing a strained left hamstring. But two days ago, Lannan was informed during the Nationals’ exhibition against the Red Sox that Ross Detwiler would be given the No. 5 position in the starting rotation, leaving Lannan without a spot.

Both Lannan and the Nationals agreed that the bullpen was not an option for the lefty, so the Nationals were left with no other option but to option Lannan to Syracuse.

“This guy has been a solid contributor to this franchise for a long time,” Rizzo said. “He’s a good, solid starting pitcher in the big leagues. Unfortunately, it was a conversation that we had about a roster spot that we felt we had five guys better than him. And also, the fact that he did not feel he could perform well out of the bullpen was another factor.

“This is about bringing the best 25 north and about winning games in 2012 and beyond. We felt Ross Detwiler allowed us to win games in 2012 and beyond. This is a young stud that we feel is going to be a part of our long-term puzzle.”

Johnson said he didn’t regret coming out and declaring Lannan as his fifth starter late in spring, and added that the decision to move Detwiler into the rotation was one made by the organization as a whole.

“It became clear that the few starts (Lannan) was going to get before Chien-Ming Wang comes back, we’d be better off as an organization giving them to Det,” Johnson said. “Now I know John Lannan is a good pitcher, but we’re still developing Det. So it was an organizational decision which I totally went along with.

“(Detwiler’s) got a very high ceiling, and he’s got good command with good stuff. So this is the time you want to let a guy express that talent. See what you’ve got.”

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