VIERA, Fla. - If it wasn't already clear that John Lannan was lined up to be the Nationals' fifth starter with Chien-Ming Wang injured, it's clear now.
As clear as can be.
"John's my guy," manager Davey Johnson said today.
There you have it.
Wang appeared to be a lock for the final spot in the Nats' rotation when he came back healthy this spring and was throwing the ball well, but once the veteran righty went down with a strained left hamstring March 15, Johnson needed to look to one of his other options.
The Nats' skipper made his plans for Lannan and Ross Detilwer well known by how he used the two lefties this spring. Lannan only once came in out of the bullpen - when he followed Wang March 15 - while all four of Detwiler's Grapefruit League appearances have been in relief.
Lannan has never pitched in a relief role in his career, "So it's not something I'm going to even entertain," Johnson said. The same can't be said for Detwiler, who has thrown the ball very well this spring but has experience as a long reliever from last season.
The Nationals were careful to keep Detwiler on a starter's schedule even when he was in the 'pen last season, only using him on games every fifth day and making him available for an inning or two on the day that was scheduled to have his bullpen session.
With Detwiler now out of options, the Nats will keep him with the big league team and apparently follow that same "starter's schedule" plan this season.
"I will probably be more careful with how I handle him between his outings," Johnson said.
That will obviously limit when Detwiler will be available, but the Nats don't really have any choice with the lefty. They can't send him to the minors, and there's no room for him in the rotation. They still view him as a part of the staff in the future, however, and so they're intent on keeping him on a standard five-day schedule.
That won't be the case with Tom Gorzelanny, also a starter-turned-reliever.
"I was going to (follow the starter's schedule) last year with Gorzo and he got all over me," Johnson said. "He said, 'I'm in the 'pen now, why don't you use me like a reliever?' OK, fine."
Meanwhile, Johnson essentially confirmed the inevitable - Wang will start the season on the DL because of his hamstring injury. Still Johnson continues to be pleased with the reports he's getting from the training staff on Wang, who is making steady progress in his rehab.
"I'm amazed he's doing as much as he is already," Johnson said. "He's throwing. He's feeling good about his progress and the medical staff says he's ahead of where they thought he'd be. He reported a little soreness in the calf. I understand, I did the same thing when I pulled my hammy earlier this spring. But that's normal. Nothing to worry about."