VIERA, Fla. – John Lannan pitched five strong innings and Roger Bernadina hit a two-run homer to lead the Nationals to their second straight Grapefruit League victory, beating the Astros 7-4 at Space Coast Stadium.
Lannan gave up a one-out, solo home run to Astros third baseman Chris Johnson in the second inning and then got himself into a bases loaded, no-out jam in the fifth, giving up only a sac fly to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez.
Lannan was pitch efficient throwing 71 pitches, 48 for strikes. He gave up just two hits and struck out five.
“It felt pretty good to go out there and have a couple of quick innings,” Lannan said. “That’s what I am going to try and do during the season so to get out there and work quick and get groundballs, that’s what I definitely plan on doing.”
With Chien-Ming Wang likely to start the season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, Lannan will be the club’s number 5 starter when season opens in April 5 in Chicago according to manager Davey Johnson.
“I like John, John can pitch,” Johnson said. “He led our club last year in wins and I think last year he was number two or three.”
For Lannan to be successful it all comes down to him being able to get groundball outs and he knows he has to trust his stuff and today was a carbon copy of that game plan.
“I kind of gave myself a chance,” he said. “You know, I trusted it and I wasn’t so hard on myself and I just let it work and I just tried to throw as many strikes as I possibly could.”
Lannan has been the talk of trade rumors the last few months as the Nats continued their search for a centerfielder. It was already established that Wang was Johnson’s guy to be the fifth starter this year.
With Ross Detwiler out of options and Lannan having one option left but scheduled to make $5-million this year, the Nationals were not going to send him down.
“I have never heard anything internally, it’s basically all rumors,” Lannan said. “I mean, I know what I am and I’ve had success. That’s what I can focus on is what’s made me successful and to just get better.
“You have to have confidence in this game. If you doubt yourself and you think you’re not good enough, it’s going to show. It’s a process that you just have to go out there no matter what’s said, no matter what rumor or anything, just be yourself and today, I think I tried to do that.”
Detwiler as long man
With John Lannan as the fifth starter, Ross Dewiler will be the long man out of the Nationals bullpen.
Detwiler followed Lannan against the Astros and gave up two runs (one earned) and two hits including a two-run homer to Brandon Barnes in the seventh inning.
Detwiler has given up six runs in 11 innings this spring and he is trying to get used to a routine that has him pitching on four days rest as opposed to five that a starter would.
“Whatever comes to me, I just have to go with it and see how it goes because I have never done this before,” Detwiler said. “It’s new and whatever I do is going to be new to me unless it’s starting.”
“I’m a big routine person. That’s what’s kind of throwing me off right now because I’m not on the same routine I have been on.
It’s a day shorter and that’s what I have to adjust to so I have to come up with a routine that gets me ready every fourth day now or gets me ready for whenever they call down there and say my name.”
Ask if he would rather be a long reliever in the majors or a starter in Triple-A, Detwiler said he could adjust to the pen but he will have to get used to it.
“Everybody’s hands are kind of tied there,” he said referring to him being out of options. “I’m just used to being a starter so once I get a routine going and get used to being a reliever, yeah, but it’s kind of a transition period right now.”
The Shark attack
Roger Bernadina went 2-for-3 including his second home run of the spring, a two run homer off Astros minor-league left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman in a three-run Nationals fifth.
Bernadina is 5-for-6 in his last two games and has raised his average to .279. After getting off to a fast start, he tailed off so this was a good sign for him as he continues to battle for one the of the outfield spots.
“I don’t worry about that right now,” Bernadina said. I just want to get in a groove to be able to help the ballclub and to do that I need to get on base or whatever it is, so I don’t worry about that right now.”
“You know, I feel good off any pitcher. I am just continuing to work to try and get better. It’s not over yet.”
LaRoche and Morse
Nats outfielder Michael Morse ran the stadium stairs this morning as he is still not able to do baseball activities but hopes to by Wednesday. Davey Johnson says it’s unlikely Morse, who is recovering from a right lat strain, will be ready to go by opening day.
Adam LaRoche ran along the cut out that separates the infield from the outfield on the minor league side today and was trying to test out his sore left foot.
Johnson says LaRoche is hoping to play in a Major League game Thursday when the Nationals take on the Braves in a split-squad game.
The Nationals head south to Jupiter tomorrow for a game against the Miami Marlins at 1:05. Gio Gonzalez makes his third Jupiter start of the spring (his home-away-from-home) and fifth overall. Gonzalez is 1-1 with an 8.10 ERA this spring. He will be opposed by RHP Ricky Nolasco.