March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) bats in the sixth inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
While sources were quoted this morning in a report by the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer who claimed that the Cubs had inquired about Washington Nationals' left-hander John Lannan, "... and former Cub Tom Gorzelanny... with Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd included in those discussions," in an interview yesterday on 106.7 the FAN in D.C., Nats' GM Mike Rizzo was talking as if a long-term solution for the Nats' center field issues was already a part of the organization and not far away from the majors developmentally or on the organizational depth chart.
Both the Nationals' general manager and Nats' skipper Davey Johnson downplayed the possibility of Lannan, a 27-year-old, five-year veteran due $5M dollars this season, being dealt, with the Nationals' manager stating clearly that in spite of the '05 11th Round pick going public with a request to be traded and in spite of the difficult situation, "We're not trading him, though. We're keeping him. He's a good big-league pitcher," as CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman reported yesterday in an article entitled, "Davey: Nats aren't trading Lannan."
Rizzo, who was quoted everywhere yesterday saying there was "mild" interest in Lannan around the league, told 106.7 the FAN's Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier, that Ross Detwiler won the spot with his work late last year and this Spring and since Lannan didn't "profile well out of the pen," he was sent to Triple-A so that the team can, "... keep him stretched out and in a starting role for when we have to go down and reach down and get another starter and he has options left so we sent him out to start in Syracuse."
The rumors of the Cubs' interest in Lannan will likely be addressed (or dismissed) when the press reconvenes at Wrigley Field tomorrow after today's off day, but the Nationals' GM sounded like the solution to the Nats' center field issues started his second professional season yesterday in Syracuse. 19-year-old Bryce Harper went 2 for 4 with a double in his Triple-A debut, brushing off the sting of a fairly early departure from his second major league Spring Training and returning to what he does best.
Asked about the possibility of Harper not making it to the majors this season in the 106.7 the FAN interview, the Nats' general manager told the hosts he wouldn't bet against Harper making his debut this season though it's a possibility he won't if he doesn't develop as expected. Essentially, however, the GM explained, "We feel that he's far enough along in his development where a few tweaks here and there, more at bats, log more games in center field that we feel that he will be major league ready."
Though the decision to have Harper work in center field in Syracuse was discussed when Harper was optioned Triple-A in March, the general manager said they had thought about Harper filling the role long before this Spring. "He played 27 games there last season," Rizzo said, "We had it in the back of our minds all along that he was going to perform in all three outfield positions and we've done so since we've drafted him. He's played left, center and right. Davey Johnson and I felt that 19-year-old legs with his athleticism his speed and his throwing arm that he could easily handle the rigors of playing center field and if we're right in that assumption, then you've answered a question that needs answering with the Washington Nationals. A long-term solution in center field that can play center field and also brings you a very potent left-handed bat in the lineup."
"I was a little out of whack in big league Spring Training," the 19-year-old 2010 no.1 overall pick told reporters after his Triple-A debut yesterday. "My swing, my hands, my legs," were all out of whack Harper explained, so he went down and worked with the team's hitting instructors and tried to get ready for the 2012 season. "I think the best thing was me getting sent down to Triple-A and really getting on that grind every day, playing, working in the cage and getting my routine back." In major league camp, Harper said, "I tried to work as hard as I could every single day, but I was so trying to do too much," and worrying about getting a hit every day, so getting sent down Harper said, "Made me calm down and really stay within myself and stay within my game."
Harper will play his second game with Syracuse this afternoon at 4:00 pm EDT. With yesterday's debut included, the Nats' top prospect, and arguably the best outfield prospect in all of baseball, has 456 plate appearances on his resume with a .299/.393/.504 combined line, 25 doubles, two triples, 17 HR's and 27 stolen bases in 110 games. If things go as planned the Nationals might not need to deal for a veteran like Marlon Byrd, who'd potentially end up as an expensive fourth outfielder on a team that's got plenty of inexpensive candidates for that role and one potential impact player on the way.