Manager Jim Riggleman said left-hander John Lannan will make his next start after Sunday's 6-3 loss to the White Sox, the third straight outing where the left-hander has failed to make it through the fifth inning. But what happens if he continues to struggle? Lannan doesn't look like the same pitcher the Nationals have seen the last two years, and barring a quick turnaround, he could lose his spot in the rotation.
"That's something we've got to think about, because John has been a mainstay here," Riggleman said. "He's been a horse here for this ballclub, who always went into the sixth, seventh, eighth inning. And when you continue to come out in the fourth or fifth, it's just not going to work. But I believe in John. I think there's got to be something there, because he has it in the bullpen. He'll get the ball sinking. He just has not been able to take it into the game situation."
In his last three starts, none of which have lasted longer than 4 2/3 innings, Lannan has a 10.38 ERA and a 2.92 WHIP. He allowed 11 hits in four innings on Sunday, coming out of the game after putting the first four White Sox runners on base in the fifth inning - right after the Nationals had scored three runs to give him a 3-1 lead.
It's not likely the Nationals would remove Lannan from the rotation unless they feel like they don't have a choice, though the point of making that decision could be nearing. Craig Stammen came within an out of a seven-inning no-hitter at Triple-A Syracuse on Friday, and he'd be a logical replacement for Lannan. Ross Detwiler is getting healthier, too, and should be done with his rehab stint by the end of the month.
My guess is the Nationals will stay with Lannan until they feel like their hand is forced. It could be if Lannan struggles on Saturday against the Orioles, but he's still in the rotation for now.
"John's been too good for us to let a few starts detour us too much," Riggleman said. "We've got a lot of leash there with John."