John Lannan signed with the New York Mets to compete for a spot in the rotation, but circumstances dictate he might have a more valuable role out of the bullpen.
“I think that’s been the plan since Day 1,’’ Lannan said Tuesday about possibly working in relief. “They’ve been pretty transparent with that.’’
The Mets figure to keep seven relievers, but with Josh Edgin sent to the minor league camp earlier this week, it leaves Scott Rice as the only left-hander and an increased importance in Lannan.
Lannan starts today against St. Louis, but after that, figures to get substantial time out of the bullpen in a situational role. In today’s specialized game, teams can’t afford to get by with just one left-handed reliever, especially in the lefty-loaded hitting National League East, which goes beyond Chipper Jones, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Jones retired, and Howard and Utley are on the decline, but the latter two still have their moments with the Phillies, as does Domonic Brown.
Washington could start as many as four lefty hitters in Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Nate McLouth and Denard Span.
The Braves have Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, and the Marlins have Greg Dobbs and switch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Obviously, that’s more than Rice can handle, and something we don’t know if Lannan can do. He’s made 148 major league appearances, all as a starter. He’s only started seven of 95 minor league games.
This is not something easily picked up, especially with three weeks remaining in spring training.
Lannan said he can get loose quickly, but there’s more to it than that, as he must see how his arm adjusts to: 1) warming up several times in the same game, 2) how he responds to back-to-back appearances, and 3) how he feels after pitching two or three innings one day and coming back the next.
This is a gamble, no question.