John Lannan put out another solid start at Triple-A Syracuse over the weekend to finally take his minors ERA this season under the 5.00 mark. He pitched his third game allowing just one earned run in his last four, and signs of progress are clear.
Lannan has had an overall miserable year after being demoted to Syracuse in spring training. He was the expected fifth starter for the big league club before being sent down in lieu of lefty Ross Detwiler. Lannan posted a 5.19 ERA in the month of April and saw batters hit .308 off of him.
Things got worse in May as Lannans ERA soared even higher to 6.00 and his opponents batting average went all the way to .328.
This month, however, Lannans ERA is a solid 3.00 and he has earned two wins and a no decision in three of his last four outings. He will need to continue his progress throughout the month to get his ERA down closer to 4.00, but an opportunity at the major league level could present itself soon.
Number five starter Chien-Ming Wang has yet to make it through the sixth inning in a start and sits with a 4.67 ERA. Lannan can reposition himself as the next man up in case of an injury, or if neither Wang or Detwiler can lock down the fifth spot.
Also, with Stephen Strasburgs innings limit about half-way through, at least one pitcher will be needed late in the year. That guy should in theory be Lannan who held a 3.70 ERA last season in 184.2 innings with the Nats. But if he reverts back to not being able to get Triple-A hitters out, they may consider other options.
Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers.
Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.
Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS.
With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years.
Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan
The Nationals aren't certain to have ace Max Scherzer ready to pitch for Opening Day. Scherzer, 32, was unable to compete in the World Baseball Classic this summer due to a stress fracture in his right ring finger.
When he spoke to the media today at the first bullpen session of spring training, he said that the fracture has healed but the symptoms continue.
Scherzer also said he'd just started throwing again this week. Manager Dusty Baker confimed that the Nationals don't know whether Scherzer will be ready to start the season.
Any time a team's star pitcher suffers an unusual hand injury, it's cause for concern for the club and fans.
Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award last season and posted a 20-7 record as a starter. He also led the MLB with 284 strikeouts.
Scherzer is an especially vital part of the Nationals rotation considering the injury history of Stephen Strasburg, who landed on the DL twice last season, once with soreness in the elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2010.
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