Quick notes from the Nationals' fourth win
The best way to describe John Lannan's spring performance would probably be 'professional.' He has basically pitched exactly how you would hope your staff anchor would in spring training.
In his first inning, he allowed two earned runs, the kinks of the offseason in full force. Between innings, he figured out a glitch with pitching coach Steve McCatty. In the 10 innings since, including five today, Lannan has allowed one earned run.
"The quieter, the better," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's the ultimate pro. His preparation, his competitiveness out there. A very low-maintenance guy. Just put him out there and let him go."
Today, Lannan threw 60 of his 45 pitches for strikes. He allowed four hits, all of them singles, and struck out two. Only six of the 19 batters he faced got the ball out of the infield. At the end, he threw 15 additional pitches in the bullpen because he had been so efficient over five innings.
Lannan made his offseason training more intense this year. He is stronger now, and he lost some baby fat. (His words.) Lannan sort of downplayed the effects -- "I don't feel like I can blow guys away or anything," he said -- but and he can tell the difference. He recovers faster after starts, for example.
"It's paying off," Lannan said.
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Whatever Ian Desmond's role ends up being, it is clear the Nationals wanted a long look at him this spring. Desmond has 39 at-bats, more than any other National. Today, he spent an inning or two in right field after a double-switch. The point was not necessarily to see him in the outfield; it was to keep him in the game.
"I think he knows he's an infielder that has the ability to go to the outfield," infield coach Pat Listach said. "In these spring training games, you're double-switching and playing a lot of guys. Any time you can keep him in there and get some bats and move him to the outfield for a couple innings, that's fine."
Offensively, Desmond continued his push for the starting shortstop job -- he went 2 for 4 with a walk, a double and two runs. He leads the Nationals with 12 RBI and is second in runs with eight. (Somehow, Justin Maxwell is batting .111 but has nine runs. He has walked eight times.) He's punched up a .359/.432/.590 in average/on-base/slugging.
Today, he also flashed the one trait the may hold him back: inconsistency on defense. He made two errors, the second when he simply rushed to start a double play after charging a ball. He also made a great play to his right, making a backhand stop and a long, crisp throw. The trick now is stopping the errors.
"You've seen him make plays no other shortstop in the game can make," Listach said. "He's going to be fine. He's looking really good out there."
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There was one odd play today. With two outs and Pete Orr on second and Alberto Gonzalez at first, Gonzalez took off for second and Orr stayed on the base. After a rundown, Orr was tagged out.
It looked like Gonzalez had botched the play or missed a sign. In fact, Orr had bolted for third before deciding against it. When Orr started, Gonzalez, as the trail runner is supposed to, followed his lead and tried to steal second. Orr actually fouled up by stopping.
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