30 Players in 30 Days: John Lannan

John Lannan in Atlanta.jpgIt may be a while until we know the full effect the 2010 season had on John Lannan but the initial prognosis is positive. For Lannan, the 2010 season was an emotional rollercoaster ride. It was a learning experience, the type of season where at times it felt like it was the end of the world and only in retrospect could he appreciate the lessons learned.

He started the season as the Nats’ Opening Day starter but never really pitched like one. He struggled with his control, mechanics and could never get his fastball to sink–the key to his previous success–going 2-5 with a 5.76 ERA with 35 walks in 14 starts. The lowest of his lows occurred on June 20 when he had a 10.38 ERA, allowed 38 base runners and lasted only 13 innings in three starts from June 9-20. He was demoted to Double-A Harrisburg on June 21. The team felt he should be sent to Harrisburg–not Triple-A Syracuse–because Lannan had history with Harrisburg Pitching Coach Randy Tomlin.

He worked with Tomlin to adjust his mechanics and alter his arm angle so he wouldn’t show his pitches as early in the delivery. He noticed a difference in the first start. He started to locate his fastball and felt confident throwing his curveball and slider. He stopped trying to be a power pitcher and started to just be John Lannan, the same groundball pitcher that got him to the Majors. He was recalled on August 1, revamped, revitalized and ready to pitch. He started to grow his hair longer and wore his socks low.

“They sent him down to the Minor Leagues and he went down there, persevered and faced a lot of adversity,” Willie Harris said. “He came back and he is a different person.”

He was a different pitcher too. He record three wins in his first four tries. Those three wins came after a no-decision and marked the first time Lannan has won three consecutive starts in his career. He won just two games in the first 14 contests he played prior to the Minor League stint.

“The main thing for me was going out there and being confident in my stuff and throw each pitch with a purpose,” Lannan said. “I was more sure of my stuff since I came back.”

He went 6-3 with a 3.42 ERA (68.1 IP/ 26 ER), 47 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 11 starts. He never pitched less than 5.0 innings and lasted at least 6.0 innings in seven of the starts.

“It was an experience that I wouldn’t take back,” Lannan said. “One thing I did learn was to take the positives from each day no matter how bad the day is. Just work on what you thought was positive and move forward.”

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