CLEARWATER, Fla. - When Nationals manager Davey Johnson saw John Lannan in a Phillies uniform during warm-ups on the field at Bright House Field late this morning, he had a message for his former starter.
“You look like (expletive) in that uniform,” Johnson told Lannan.
Lannan’s response to reporters a little bit later, while chatting in the Phillies clubhouse: “He’s gonna have to get used to that. He’s gonna see me a couple times.”
After spending the first eight years of his major league career in the Nationals organization, Lannan now finds himself with the Phillies. The left-hander was non-tendered by the Nats this offseason after spending much of last season in Triple-A, and he signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Phillies, who essentially have given him the No. 5 spot in their starting rotation.
The Nationals were all that Lannan knew for the entirety of his professional career up until a few months ago, but the 28-year-old says the transition from the Nats to one of their chief division rivals hasn’t been that tough.
“Not as weird as I thought,” Lannan said. “It happens. Guys change teams all the time. It was good to see them just now. I’ll get my ‘Hi’s’ in now before the season starts, then it’s time to go.”
Lannan was twice the Nationals’ opening day starter, but he was blindsided last spring when he was sent to Triple-A Syracuse out of spring. The Nats gave the final spot in their rotation to Ross Detwiler, who responded by winning 10 games and posting a 3.40 ERA in his first full big league season. Lannan eventually came up and made six starts with the Nats later in the season, winning four games and helping the team to its first division title.
Lannan admits that he had a tough time dealing with the surprise demotion at first.
“It was definitely an eye-opening experience,” he said. “Going down there, I didn’t put my head down. The first couple weeks were rough. Definitely made it and took it as an opportunity to change, make an adjustment, get better as a pitcher, as a person. Coaching staff down there is great. I had a great time with all the players down there. I made the best of the situation. I made the best of being up in September. Just because last year didn’t work out doesn’t mean my career is over. Just gotta move past it.”
Asked if he learned anything during his roller-coaster season, Lannan paused for a second.
“Baseball is not everything,” he responded. “It really is important, it’s an important part of life, but you can’t control it. You can only control what you do.”
This offseason, Lannan gauged the interest in his services from teams around the league and then went with his gut, saying he signed with the team he felt gave him the best chance to pitch every fifth day.
“They showed interest and I jumped at the opportunity to pitch for a team that is going to be competing to win the NL East and the World Series,” Lannan said.
Lannan and his wife just recently had their first child, a son, who was born about a month ago. With the benefit of some perspective, Lannan says that he enjoyed his time with the Nats and brushes off the idea that he might hold some resentment toward the organization for the way that he was used last season.
“I had a great time,” Lannan said. “I’m glad that they gave me a shot, that they gave me an opportunity from the beginning. We went through some pretty difficult times there, but it made you enjoy the better times even more. Looking back on it, it was a great experience. Made some great friends. Got good experiences. ...
“You can’t hold any grudges in this game. You can’t take anything personally. I want to go out there and pitch against them like they’re any other NL East opponent. I’m comfortable with the NL East, facing these teams. It’s just like facing any of these teams - Braves, Mets, Marlins and (now) I get to face the Nationals.”