He last pitched five days ago, tossing his second consecutive shutout for Class AAA Syracuse, so John Lannan would normally have been primed to return to the mound tonight.
Except there's nowhere for the left-hander to pitch tonight. The minor-league season has ended, and Edwin Jackson is starting for the Nationals against the Cubs.
The Nationals won't need Lannan until Stephen Strasburg makes his final start (scheduled for Sept. 12) and is shut down, opening a spot in their rotation. So what will he do until then?
The plan, as outlined by manager Davey Johnson today, calls for Lannan to throw on the side and keep his arm fresh, but not to appear in a game for at least another five days. Even then, he'll only pitch an inning or two out of the bullpen.
"It's like I'm skipping him a start," Johnson explained. "Today would normally be his day to pitch if he was on regular rest, but I'm skipping today. It's like if a guy I thought had a tired arm, I'm just going to skip him. And then in five more days, I'll think about getting him in a game for relief just to keep him sharp."
After that, Johnson plans to insert Lannan into his rotation, though not necessarily in Strasburg's exact slot. Actually, the Nationals would like to give Lannan his first start sometime during their Sept. 14-16 at the Braves.
Lannan has enjoyed more success against Atlanta (9-5, 3.20 ERA in 16 starts) than any other opponent, making it a favorable matchup.
After a difficult season in the minors after believing he would make the big-league rotation, Lannan believes he's both in a good frame of mind and is pitching well just in time to join a pennant race.
At the same time, the 27-year-old is being careful not to assume he'll pick up right where he left off when his minor-league season ended on a high note.
"I don't think it necessarily translates to up here," Lannan said. "I threw two great games. I'm not going to just assume I'm going to come up here and deal, because I was doing bad down there in July and I came up here and did well beating the Braves on July 21. I have to forget about everything that happened and just do my thing."
In other news, the Nationals activated Chien-Ming Wang off the disabled list prior to tonight's game. Wang, who had been on the DL with a right hip strain, will be available to pitch out of the bullpen but isn't likely to see much action.
Over three seasons with the Nationals, Wang has made 15 starts in the big leagues and 21 minor-league starts while rehabbing from various injuries.