Notes: Lannan turning heads this spring
Lefty extends scoreless-innings streak, get first Grapefruit win
JUPITER, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander John Lannan pitched three shutout innings in a 6-5 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday and continues to show that he belongs in the starting rotation.
There were times when Lannan was behind in the count, but he managed to get out of the inning. Lannan acknowledged that he wasn't aggressive unless he needed to be, and that usually occurred when runners were on base.
"I would get into trouble and I ended up making good pitches," Lannan said. "I didn't start out strong. I didn't go after hitters in the beginning. I was having trouble with my offspeed pitches, but my mechanics feel good and my fastball felt good."
Lannan has pitched five scoreless innings this spring and general manager Jim Bowden already is raving about Lannan's skills on the mound.
"You just know that he is going to be a successful big league pitcher," Bowden said. "It doesn't matter what the situation is. He'll find a way to put the ball where he needs to get the ground ball and the out."
Lannan is in his first Spring Training camp with the big league club and he knows the expectations are high after the year he had in 2007. He breezed through the Minor League system last season, going a combined 12-3 with a 2.31 ERA. Lannan was then called up to the big leagues on July 26 and showed that he was not intimidated on the mound. His best game occurred against the Giants on Aug. 6, when he gave up one run in seven innings. He held Barry Bonds, who was looking to become the all-time career home run leader, hitless in three at-bats.
"They know I can throw strikes and they like the way I compete, so I'm just going to go out there and not change anything from what I did last year," Lannan said.
Power bat: In the first inning, Elijah Dukes hit a ball to the right-center-field wall for a two-run triple. Last year, the Nationals didn't have one player who had that kind of power the opposite way.
"He's impressive," manager Manny Acta said. "He is very strong and he has that ability that is tough to teach to the younger guys."
The right-handed-hitting Dukes said he once forgot how to go the other way because he started hitting home runs. He then received lessons this spring from hitting coach Lenny Harris and Barry Larkin, the special assistant to the general manager, on how to go with the pitch -- and it's paying off. Dukes is hitting the ball to right field on a regular basis and 7-for-18 (.389) with a home run and three RBIs.
Roster moves: The Nationals assigned right-hander Adam Carr and shortstop Ian Desmond to big league camp on Wednesday.
Carr, who struck out a combined 78 batters in 60 2/3 innings for Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg last year, impressed the Nationals by having quality bullpen sessions in recent days. The team wants Carr to start developing under pitching coach Randy St. Claire and learn how to pitch the right way.
"It's early enough in camp," Bowden said. "We want to take a look at Carr. He throws 98 mph. He has a big arm. I like the way Randy St. Claire handles young pitchers."
Desmond's strong work ethic earned him a chance to play shortstop in split-squad games. The Nationals also are short on infielders.
The Nationals also reassigned pitchers Mike Bacsik, Tristan Crawford, Ross Detwiler, Mike Hinckley, Charlie Manning, Ismael Ramirez, Josh Smoker and Jim Ed Warden, outfielders Roger Bernadina, Frank Diaz, Tommy Murphy and Jorge Padilla, infielders William Bergolla, Yurendell De Caster and Antonio Perez and catcher Devin Ivany to Minor League camp.
At the box office: The Nationals announced on Wednesday that almost 40,000 tickets were sold to individual regular-season games and Opening Day for the 2008 season. This total is four times the amount of tickets sold last year (10,000) when individual tickets were first made available. Tickets went on sale on Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET via telephone and at nationals.com.
Coming up: The Nationals return to Viera, Fla., on Thursday night to play the Mets at Space Coast Stadium. Game time is at 7:05 ET. Washington right-hander John Patterson will make his second start of the spring, while right-hander Pedro Martinez will take the mound for the Mets.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.