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John Lannan sent to Class AA Harrisburg (final update)

For the past two seasons, John Lannan established himself as the Washington Nationals' most reliable starting pitcher. He twice started on opening day. Over 2008 and 2009, he pitched more than 385 total innings with an ERA under 3.90. Only 22 other pitchers did that.

"He's a quality big league pitcher," pitching coach Steve McCatty said.

"John is very important to our staff," Manager Jim Riggleman said.

"He's a major league pitcher," General Manager Mike Rizzo said. "He's going to be a part of this rotation for a long time."

For now, though, Lannan is no longer part of the Nationals' rotation. Since his performance this season does not square with his track record, the Nationals optioned Lannan to Class AA Harrisburg today in order to straighten out his mechanics and, perhaps more importantly, rebuild his confidence.

In his last three starts, Lannan has a 10.38 ERA while allowing 38 base runners in 13 innings. No matter what Lannan has done or what the Nationals believe he might do, his performance in the present demands he no longer pitch for the Nationals.

"John was searching for some answers here on the major league level," Rizzo said. "He's an established major league guy for us. But I felt it would be best for him to work out his problems mechanically and stuff-wise at a place where there's not as much stress and pressure on him as the big league level."

After Lannan allowed five runs on 11 hits in four innings in his start Sunday, Riggleman vowed Lannan would make his next scheduled start. Today, Riggleman said he knew on Sunday that he, McCatty and Rizzo would sleep on it and then decide Lannan's fate, but that he gave the vote of confidence because was "trying to be positive and see if we could keep John in good spirits, if that would be the route we go."

This morning, they convened and decided Lannan should be sent Class AA Harrisburg, as opposed to Class AAA Syracuse, because Lannan has history with Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin.

Lannan, 25, has been baffled by his struggles this season. Even during his best spurts, such as when he allowed two or fewer earned runs in four straight outings, Lannan has felt off. He could not get his fastball to sink, the key to his success. He had fought through an elbow injury that forced him to miss a start in mid-May, and while he vows he is healthy, Lannan may have been compensating in his delivery. By Sunday, he had lost confidence.

"I'm trying to figure it out," Lannan said Sunday after his start. "I can't go out there and try to find stuff during the game. I can't go out there and start changing stuff, which I tried to do today. It's not working."

The Nationals hope Lannan returns "as soon as possible," Rizzo said. "Our expectations are he's going to be a consistent performer for us and be a 200-inning type of guy for us. The sooner he irons things out and gets comfortable, the better, when he gets up here and gives us the best chance to win every fifth day."

In the meantime, the Nationals recalled reliever Joel Peralta, 34, from Class AAA Syracuse. Peralta, serving primarily as the Sky Chiefs' closer, saved 20 games with no blown saves and held a 1.08 ERA. Peralta has appeared in 221 major league games across five seasons for the Angels, Royals (the Nationals' opponent tonight) and the Rockies. He is 4-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 273 1/3 innings. Last year with the Rockies, he had a 6.20 ERA in 24 2/3 innings with 22 strikeouts and 12 walks.

"For three months I've been working hard down there," Peralta said. "It's a great feeling."

The Nationals will use an eight-man bullpen until June 29, the first day the Nationals will require a starter to replace Lannan. The Nationals have not determined who will pitch that day. The most likely candidate seems to be Craig Stammen. Ross Detwiler, rehabbing from preseason hip surgery in the minors, will "need a little more time in the minor leagues" before returning to the majors. The Nationals reinstated Detwiler from the 60-day disabled list today and optioned him to Harrisburg.

The Nationals hope whoever replaces Lannan does so on a temporary basis, and that Lannan returns to become the pitcher he once was and they believe he can still be.

"Once he gets pitching down there, has a couple games where the sink's back, he's relaxed and not such a microscope he's under, hopefully it'll come back real quick," McCatty said. "And he'll be back here as soon as they think that's he's ready, and he's accomplished the things that we want him to do. And that's just getting back to being John Lannan."

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 21, 2010; 6:52 PM ET
Categories:  John Lannan , Pitching rotation  
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Next: Stephen Strasburg's upcoming schedule

Comments

This is good for John. When I saw him on tv last night, so depressed and down on himself, I thought he needed a little time in the minors to feel his mojo come back. Good luck to him.

Posted by: pundito | June 21, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Adam, Adam. They aren't the Sky Chiefs anymore. In fact, they weren't the Sky Chiefs when the Nats moved their affiliation from Columbus after the 2008 season. They are just the Chiefs.

Posted by: ValleyCaps | June 21, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

What the h-e-double hockey sticks kind of grammar is that, anyway? (Might as well critique the spammer while we're at it.)

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Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

They even spelled the name of some of the companies wrong. Don't think I want them having my cc information.

Posted by: marathoner | June 21, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

WOW!!! I'm sure of ONE THING, I want NOTHING to do with that company.

As for John L., good luck in AA (Harrisburg, PA) and I look forward to seeing you back as soon as you are able.

Bob Schnebly

Posted by: StarLyrara | June 22, 2010 5:52 AM | Report abuse

Peralta? ANOTHER pitcher who thrives in AAA ball, only to fail repeatedly in the bigs, like Stammen, Martin, Mock, Chico, etc., etc., etc.? Is that what we need?

How's Wang doing? Inquiring minds want to know. The Post sure seems to be trying to keep it a secret.

I was sort of a little bit hoping that, by leaving a hole in the rotation, we were saving a slot for Roy Oswalt or the even more tenuously but tantalizingly rumored Cliff Lee.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | June 22, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

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