After winning nine games for the Nationals in 2008, his first full season in the Majors, left-hander John Lannan was given the ball for the club's season opener this year. Last season, he ranked in the National League's top 25 in both ERA (3.91) and opponents batting average (.252). And, while he lost his first three decisions this season, he has begun to turn that around with two victories in May. Those performances have helped him lower his ERA to 3.89 entering Friday night's start against the defending World Series champion Phillies. He recently answered some questions for MLBPLAYERS.com:
05/15/2009 2:49 PM ET
Q&A with Washington's John Lannan
Left-hander back on track after early struggles in 2009
By Jeff Moeller / MLBPLAYERS.com
MLBPLAYERS.com: After a strong 2008 season in which you posted a 3.91 ERA over 31 starts, you have an ERA of 3.89 after seven starts this season. How do you think you're throwing the ball so far?
Lannan: There is room for improvement as always. In April, I had some good outings and I had some bad outings. I'm looking to improve upon my numbers. I want to get my ERA down and I want to be more effective against left-handed hitters. As a lefty, I need to get those guys out.
MLBPLAYERS.com: As you reflect upon your '08 season, what do think of first?
Lannan: The number of quality starts that I had. I did my best to stay in the game and keep my team in the game. I did that a bunch of times last year.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Someone you have credited for being in the position you are in right now is your father. How instrumental has he been in your career?
Lannan: My dad has been a big part of my career. He was my coach when I was younger, and, when he wasn't my coach, he was able to come to a lot of my games. He loves baseball, which makes this even more enjoyable for me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you got the nod to pitch on Opening Day in Florida, what did it mean to you that he and about 10 other relatives made the trip to support you?
Lannan: It was very special. I had a lot of support that day. I just wish the results were better in terms of the game. When I made my debut in Philly, I had 40 people there. It's great that people care, and it's great that I have such a wonderful support system.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What did it mean to you as a pitcher to get selected to pitch the season opener?
Lannan: That was one of my goals coming out of the spring. If I hadn't gotten the call, though, I wouldn't have been upset. But I did, and it was a great honor. Again, I just wish the results were better.
MLBPLAYERS.com: For fans that have not seen you pitch, how do you describe your style?
Lannan: I don't have overpowering stuff. I really rely on location. I change speeds, and I get a lot of groundballs. I mix in some strikeouts here and there, but I look to be around the zone. I like quick innings.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are there any pitchers, past or present, whom you like to pattern your game after?
Lannan: Tom Glavine is someone I have always looked up to. Being from New York, Andy Pettitte is another guy I've admired for a long time. I love to watch him pitch in big-pressure games. I like to pitch when the pressure is on as well. They're both confident guys who trust their stuff. I want to be like them, and trust my stuff that I can throw one pitch anywhere I want.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Have you had the opportunity to pitch in New York yet?
Lannan: I haven't pitched at new Citi Field yet or the new Yankee Stadium. We go to Yankee Stadium, though, so hopefully my turn comes up during that visit. I pitched twice last year at Shea. I had a lot of support there. It was great.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You pitched in New York at Siena College in Albany. What can you say about the baseball program there?
Lannan: It was a perfect fit for me. The school is on the smaller side, and I think that fits my personality well. We played some good schools and the coaching there was great. I was able to get good exposure, and I was able to get drafted. I also graduated, which was a big goal of mine.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You were born in Long Beach on Long Island in New York. Do a lot of people get that confused with Long Beach, Calif.?
Lannan: I usually say I'm from Long Island. If people hear I'm from New York, they probably think I'm from New York City. I guess the most popular Long Beach is in California, but Long Beach, N.Y., is a pretty cool place. It's on the beach and I love it. I had a great childhood there.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you an Islanders hockey fan then?
Lannan: Actually, I like the Rangers. But being here in DC now, I'm all about the Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.