In Lacy Lusk's most recent column on the Washington Nationals in the March 23, 2008 print edition of Baseball America's baseball coverage, (which features a list of the "Top 100 Prospects in Baseball"), the Washington, D.C.-based Washington Times writer quotes Nationals' GM Jim Bowden's opinion on the prospective members of the Nationals' starting rotation:
"As camp began, general manager Jim Bowden said four rookies were among the nine candidates for the five-man big league rotation, including lefthander John Lannan and righties Collin Baelster, Tyler Clippard and Garrett Mock. The veteran competition includes righties Jason Bergmann, Shawn Hill, John Patterson and Tim Redding, and lefty Matt Chico."
But now a month into Spring Training, it appears that John Lannan is the only one of the four young arms who'll remain in the big league camp, as Washington Post baseball writer Barry Svrluga is reporting in the latest post on his blog "Nationals Journal", entitled, "Nats reassign Balester, Mock, 16 others", that Balester, Clippard, Mock (...and Ross Detwiler) have all been reassigned to various destinations in the Nationals' system.
Collin Balester was (0-1) with a 5.06 ERA in 2 games this Spring, pitching 5.1 innings over which he allowed 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 HR's and 1 walk while striking out 4. Tyler Clippard, (0-1) in 3 starts, had a 3.38 ERA in 8.0 innings, allowing 9 hits, 3 ER and 5 walks, while striking out 6. Garrett Mock had no decisions in 3 appearances, 2 of them starts, allowing 7 hits, 6 runs (3 earned), and 3 walks against 4 K's in 6.2 innings on the hill.
As for Lannan, MLB.com's Bill Ladson had high praise for the 23 year-old left-hander in responding to the question, "What are the Nationals' plans for John Lannan?...", in the most recent edition of the Nationals', "Mailbag: Will Kearns be right fielder?", at washington.nationals.mlb.com, in which Mr. Ladson writes:
"There is no question that Lannan will be in the rotation this year. I agree with you that he has the mental toughness. I think two years from now, Lannan will be the ace of the staff."
Lannan was (2-2) in 6 starts in DC last season after making his debut on July 26th. In 3 Minor League seasons since being drafted out of Siena College, the 6'5'' 200 lb lefty is (21-16) with a 3.89 ERA in 55 starts with 229 K's in 326.0 IP. Lannan moved through every level of the Nationals' system in three seasons before getting the call to the Majors, and seems intent upon staying at the Major League level, posting a (1-0) record in 2 starts this Spring, with a 3.12 ERA in 8.2 IP, allowing 11 hits and 3 runs while striking out 9, walking 4 and giving up 2 HR's thus far.
...and Mr. Ladson also notes in his most recent "Mailbag" that when it comes to the Opening Night starter:
"...don't count out Lannan to be the starter. The guy has ice water in his veins."
...Newark Star-Ledger Sports writer Dan Graziano reports on the Nationals' first base competition in his Sunday Sports section feature column, "Dan Graziano on MLB", in which he writes:
"The Nationals will look to trade one of their first basemen - Dmitri Young or Nick Johnson - if they can be sure Johnson is healthy. (Good luck with that.)"
Mr. Graziano has a point, it might be hard to convince anyone to take either of the Nationals' first basemen right now. With DY's well-documented struggles with Diabetes and the related conditioning problems, and Johnson still untested for an extended period on his surgically-repaired right leg, it's hard to imagine anyone is going to want to give anything of value in return, and Washington GM Jim Bowden is already well-known for not accepting anything less than what he believes is the fair market-value in return for the Nationals' players and prospects...(see all past Chad Cordero-trade talk for proof).
...The Nationals however, could be trading from another position though, as Mr. Graziano also notes:
"They (Washington) also feel they have a surplus of second basemen, with Ronnie Belliard, Felipe Lopez and, believe it or not, Bret Boone playing well early in camp."
Guess that means Cristian Guzman's play this Spring has cemented his starting spot at short, but with the Guzman's injury history lately, can the Nationals really afford to trade Felipe Lopez and hope that Guzman actually makes it through a full season? One thing is for sure, the infield is crowded, and the Nationals need depth in the starting rotation, so something is gonna have to give...
The Nationals dropped a 4-3 decision to the Detroit Tigers and so-far-unscored-upon righty Justin Verlander. Lastings Milledge continues to kill the ball, going 2 for 2 to raise his average this Spring to .406 thus far. Rookie first base prospect Matt Whitney hit his first home run of the Spring, a three-run blast off Tigers' reliever Zach Miner, who blew a save opportunity, and then vultured a win away from Verlander. Nationals' starter John Lannan allowed three runs in 3.2 IP.
Tomorrow night is the first MLB.tv game for the Nationals this Spring. It's against the Braves, with John Patterson and Tom Glavine expected to take the hill at 7:05 pm...order your MLB.tv now if you want to watch or check back here after the game to read our federalbaseball.com Game Report...