Thursday, August 14, 2008

John Lannan ESPN Zone

The fourth ESPN Zone "Meet & Greet" with a player from Our Washington Nationals was special. John Lannan was called on to "Pinch Hit" as Radio Broadcaster and Lunch Time Host Charlie Slowes mentioned yesterday afternoon. Aaron Boone was originally scheduled to attend. But, with Our Number 8 still rehabbing from injury at AAA Columbus--Our Number 31 was happy to fill in.

John Lannan didn't disappoint. He was poised, ready to talk and share about his budding Major League Career. For nearly 30 Minutes, he took questions from Charlie and the audience--then signed autographs and took pictures with anyone wanting at The ESPN Zone.

Here are most of the questions, answers and comments from August 13th, 2008 at The ESPN Zone in Downtown, Washington, DC. And you must read Charlie's comments about Philly Fans. Did he EVER get on a roll about their attitude.

With that--Here we go:

Charlie: What are you doing on your days off between starts?

“Normal routine. Just hanging out, working out, running and enjoying good baseball.”

Charlie: Tough one last night, good ballgame, good crowd, right there with the chants to the very end.

“Definitely looked like that ball (pitched to Damian Easley) hit his bat, but it hit him in the helmet. That was definitely a game changer, but it was a good game to the very end.”

Charlie: Also, the play earlier, I thought, and replays indicated that (Cristian) Guzman beat out the throw to first base from Jose Reyes at shortstop and on that play, The Nationals would have scored a third run.

“I was right there (watching from The Dugout). He was definitely safe. It was a tough break, what more can I say.”

Charlie: Your thoughts on how you have been pitching? You’ve had some really good starts. I know it’s been a tough year. Walking in here today, we were talking about the Quality Start Rule—six innings, three runs or less—considered a Quality Start. But, John does not consider that a Quality Start. In fact, if he had pitched every single game, six innings, three runs or less, most likely he would lose because he needs to pitch at least seven innings and no runs given up to win.”

“Based on Quality Starts standards, six innings and three runs do not always get the job done. So, I am always going out there to go nine innings. I am trying to learn each time I go out there and keep the team in the ball game.”

Question: The start you had against Barry Bonds, your second or third start I believe. You were thrown from Minor League Ball to this amazing situation that very few pitchers have ever been in—what was your mindset? What was going through your head? How did you go about preparing? I was impressed with the way you attacked Barry Bonds, you didn’t look like you were going to pitch around him?

“Last year was definitely a whirlwind. The whole season was—especially coming up in that situation. Those first three starts were really different, I guess you could say. I got ejected (against The Phillies for hitting Chase Utley), then I got my first win, then I got to face Barry Bonds and The Giants—when he was going for that (Home Run) record. It is something I will never forget and it was just a great experience. I didn’t want to give it up (The Record Home Run), but I also did not want to pitch around him. So, I thought of him as just a regular batter, and I am not saying Barry Bonds is a regular batter. I just tried to keep it in the back of my mind—not think too much of it that he was going for the record.”

Charlie: Even before that and now it’s sort of a distant memory. You had all the researchers, all the baseball people having to dig when you were ejected from your first game for hitting (Ryan) Howard and Utley back to back (in Philadelphia). In your wildest dreams, in your roller coaster ride from A Ball to The Big Leagues, did you have to call people or get calls from people to say: “Yeah, I got ejected from my first Big League Game.”

“I am pretty sure everybody who was a friend with me knew that I got ejected.”

Charlie: It was kind of a lead story on SportsCenter, wasn’t it?

“Yeah, and I can have some friends tell you too, they weren’t too happy.” (Laughing)

Question: Tell us about your background. How you got started in Baseball? How you developed to where you are now?

“My Dad has been a big influence on my life, especially baseball. He’s been my coach since I started playing, when I was six (years old). Basically, I have been a late bloomer, you might say. In High School, I did not get my feet wet until by junior or senior year. Then, I really didn’t get scouted that much for college. So, I went to Siena College up in Albany, New York—a small D-1 School. My Freshman and Sophomore years I went through my growing pains. Then, my junior year, I had my breakout year—and I broke a couple of school records.”

“I got noticed by a couple of teams and The Nationals picked me up in their first year. So, once again, when I came up with The Nationals my first professional season—I was getting my feet wet in ’05 & ’06. Definitely, it was a humbling experience. I am starting to get a little comfortable right now and having a lot more fun.”

Question: What’s it like to be a Nationals Pitcher?

“It feels great. To be a Big League Pitcher has been a dream probably since I was your age. (A young child asked the question). It’s a dream come true and I feel blessed every single day.”

Charlie: How old are you? (To the kid)

Kid: “Eight”

Charlie: Do you want to pitch or play in The Big Leagues?

Kid: “Yes”

Charlie: Alright John, tell him what he’s got to do?

“Listen to your parents, stay in school and do a lot of hard work.”

Question: John, since you grew up in New York, which teams do you like more—Mets or Yankees?

“The Yankees. Definitely, The Yankees, although I went to some Mets Games when I was younger. The Yankees were definitely the team I liked the most, ever since ’96. That is the team I really started to go to baseball heaven with.”

Charlie: “Well, they were pretty good. (Four straight World Series Championships)

“They were pretty good, it’s probably why I liked them so much.”

Charlie: Who is or was your pitcher role model? Your favorite pitcher?

“Andy Pettite. And I loved Don Mattingly. But he left by then (1996). ’95 was his last year. That whole team. I loved Bernie Williams. All those guys definitely paved the way for my baseball career.”

Charlie: John, being a Native New Yorker—you asked him which team he liked. And I knew he wasn’t going to say—“I like both teams.” Because you can’t do that in New York. That’s a good why to get beaten up in New York by saying you like both teams.

“Yes, it’s either the Yankees or the Mets, or Jets or Giants, or Islander or Rangers—then you have The Knicks. But, they are struggling right now.”

Charlie: Also being from New York, I know that people have no respect for you if you can’t pick a team. And that is your team—you can’t like both.

“You can be a baseball fan and in The Subway Series—you definitely have to follow one. But, if The Mets were in the playoffs—you have to have some New York Pride.”

Charlie: So, were you Jets or Giants? Give us the whole lineup (of favorite teams)?

“I didn’t want to be a front runner when the (Football) Giants won, because I would watch football during the season and they were not playing too well. But, I am a Giants Fan and I am a Rangers Fan. One of my friends has season tickets, so I went to a lot of Rangers Games.”

Charlie: So figure that. You grew up on Long Island. The Islanders had won their four Stanley Cups probably before you started watching hockey seriously. And you live on Long Island, but you are a Rangers Fan. I guess that is the case with a lot of folks.

“When The Rangers won (The Stanley Cup) in ’94, that’s when I started to become a huge Rangers Fan. But, I have kind of dwindled off. Lately, I have started to get back into it, during the off season.”

Question: How does it feel to play in really cool parks like Wrigley Field and Busch Stadium—your first time?

“My first start this year was at Busch Stadium. The Fans there are great, not as great as you guys, but they really have baseball knowledge. That place is unbelievable. I am going to Wrigley Field (on an upcoming road trip) and I am really excited. I get to miss Philly, because of the rainout in Colorado and now I get Wrigley. And I am glad to miss Philly because I won’t have to get booed. (Chuckling). And I get to pitch at Wrigley which is one of the best baseball parks—I think.”

Charlie: Do you feel like a target in Philadelphia because of what happened there last year when Chase Utley had his hand broken?

“I hope not, but I don’t think those fans forget.”

Charlie: They (Philly Fans) are mean—aren’t they? Philly Fans are downright nasty and mean. (Clapping at ESPN ZONE) They are not only mean to players, but they find out where the players families sit and then they go and be mean to them.

“I have no problem with them being mean to mean, because they love their Phillies. But, being mean to my family—that is just not right. And they were definitely mean to my family in my debut.”

Charlie: A couple of years ago my wife —Mike O’Connor’s family was sitting with her. How they know, and who is apart of what family, it’s just not nice. They can be meaner than any fans in sports—even at their own players—on their own teams when things are not going well.

“But, they just want to win and they know what they want. I can’t blame them for that.”

Question: What team do you have a rivalry with—is it New York? The Mets? Or The Phillies? What team have you developed a rivalry with? And I think Phillie Fans are mean too.

“Well, we had The Battle of The Beltways—so I think that is building a little by little. Any NL East Team that’s competing, I think is considered a rival.”

Charlie: Now since I talked about it and it’s going to be written about online and in blogs—I might be a target for Philly Fans. They might be spitting at the (broadcast) booth.

“I have nothing against Philly Fans.”

Charlie: You guys got my back. You going to stand up for me? (Yeah, is the reply)? All right!! (Clapping) I need all the help I can get. (Laughing)

“Yeah” (also chuckling)

Question: Who is it in the clubhouse that makes The Nationals, The Nationals?

“I think it is a mix of everybody, everybody brings something to the table. Right now, Willie Harris is definitely gives a lot of life. Ronnie Belliard also does. All those veteran guys that have been around for some time—they mold us young people, young players. And it’s great to have those types of guys in the clubhouse. I think we have a great clubhouse because everyone seriously gets along. It’s just a great clubhouse.”

Charlie: Is Willie Harris a fun guy to watch?

“That play he made (Tuesday Night) was unbelievable. It was awesome to watch.”

Charlie: And then to get the double play!!


Charlie: He’s been like that. We were doing the broadcast and I would say that most every day he plays; he does something that stands out to help his team win. And, as hard as runs the bases, as hard as he goes trying to run out grounders, seemingly, he never makes a mistake in the outfield. Wherever you play him, he like makes a good play for you.

“Yes, he is dedicated to going out there and getting the job done. You can see it when he plays. It’s just great to watch.

Charlie: When you see a guy like that, and I always see him in the clubhouse early, he always watches video. He always has a mindset and an approach to how he’s going to go against the starting pitcher that night. He is a great example for the young players. He’s prepared to play every day.”

“Exactly, and you really have to watch him to learn. There are a bunch of guys like that. They all get there early and work hard—no matter what—whether they are struggling or not. They go out there and know what they have to do and keep on battling.”

Charlie: One of the things I love about watching you, going back to a start earlier this year, where you didn’t have a good one at home. You were knocked out early; most guys would sit there through the end of the inning and then go inside the clubhouse. The trainer is going to get them iced down and may come back to the clubhouse later. But, you didn’t leave the dugout. You weren’t gone for very long. And when you did go inside, you made sure you were right back out there sitting next to Tim Redding, sitting next to the veterans. And you told me after, when I asked you about this—you were talking about what went wrong that day. A lot of guys would just brood about it, be inside, maybe even watch TV or tape of what happened. You felt it was more valuable to be in the dugout and talking with your fellow pitchers.

“There is only so much TV you can watch. You learn the most in your losses. You learn some things from your wins, but you learn the most from when you lose. Definitely, you want to be around guys that have been in that same spot—and you watch the game. I was out in the third or fourth inning (that day) and I just didn’t feel like being in the clubhouse. I just wanted to still be out there cheering the team on. Hopefully, we can come back. But, I definitely learn more from sitting there (on the bench) taking in everything.”

Charlie: As Pitchers, Starting Pitchers especially, if you are not charting for the next day—now since that is done inside in the video room because of the technology—and you might get to listen to us (on the radio with Dave Jageler) botch whatever pitch call we make that day (chuckling). But, you can sit next to Tim Redding and say, “Hey, I know I was off. What did you see?” You can pick his brain about what he might have saw that was different about what might have been different about you that day than in other starts?

“Not really. It’s just based on what he has gone through. We are such different pitchers. He is more of a power guy. I have to work on my command. But, it’s just based on how I react after a start and how to forget about what just happened—move on. And that is the toughest part—not to dwell on bad things—but to improve and just get better. (Tim Redding) has really helped me out with that.”

Charlie: Part of your success has been that back door slider that you started to throw at a game in New York—earlier—with Wil Nieves catching you. You had never thrown that pitch, that way before.

“Yeah, that was the first game I ever threw like that. I just woke up that morning and said (to himself) that looks like a good idea against these guys. I went out there and threw it. I kind of got away from it in the last couple of games. But, I still got that slider working. So, I am continuing to move forward with what works.”

Charlie: It’s interesting. If you watch a pitcher change an approach and do something they have not done and the hitter is so locked in on what they saw in video of previous games—if you do something different—you see a lot of guys just stand there and take the pitch.

“That’s just adapting. That’s just something you need to do because these hitters are good.”

Question: Since you pitched and played with just about everyone throughout virtually the entire organization last year—is there one particular teammate that stands out to you that is not currently on the Major League Roster?

“There is a ton. But, one of my good friends, Craig Stammen, he’s climbing the ladder too. He started at Potomac (Single A) and now he is in Columbus (AAA). He’s a hard worker, great kid. There are a lot of different guys. Marco Estrada is another pitcher. And Corey Van Allen. I have never played with him, but he’s one of my best friends too. He is definitely a great lefty pitcher coming up through the ranks. There are a lot of guys and I need a couple of minutes to really think about it.”

Question: Who are the toughest batters for you to face? Who do you really not want to see standing in the batters box?

“The usual guys. The great guys of the game. Albert Pujols—although I have not faced him in situation yet. Lance Berkman is tough. Ian Stewart is tough, recently (chuckling). Chipper Jones—all those big name guys. They are tough and that’s what they get paid for because that is what they do. They have been doing it for years.”

Charlie: How hard was that start in Colorado? You are having a great start, one pitch changes it there and the game got out of hand in the next inning?

“Yes, that start was a little tough to take. That one pitch and he (Stewart) hit it a long way (game tying home run). You have to give credit to the hitter, but it’s tough when you have one of your very last pitches be a home run.”

Charlie: Some guys have the type of year you are having. You pitch well, but you don’t get the run support and you can’t win those games. Then, there was one time this year where you got a win when you thought you were horrible—you threw more balls than strikes and I remember you telling me “I was terrible”.

“Yeah, you can have those start and still get the win. That’s why I don’t really concentrate on wins and losses because it doesn’t really say how you did that game. But wins are great. I’ll take a couple more wins.”

Charlie: I know it’s tough to have double-digit losses. I am sure have said to you—a couple of really good pitchers lost a lot of games their first year or two in the Big Leagues—Tom Glavine, who you have been compared to the way you pitch; Greg Maddux, even John Smoltz lost a lot of games early in his career.

“It’s too early to say (about me). Those guys are just great. 300 Wins is unbelievable. 3000 Strikeouts is unbelievable. Those guys are what I strive to be—some day.”

Charlie: When you get to see these guys who you saw growing up, now sitting in the opposing dugout—is that a little bit of a mind blow?

“Yes, definitely. To pitch against John Smoltz when he was going for his 3000th Strikeout was definitely cool. Then, I met Tom Glavine and he even signed an autograph for me. Those guys are just great in games and its fun to watch them pitch.”

Charlie: What was it like to pitch in New York for the first time?

“I love it just because my family was there—people who had not had the chance to see me in DC. They all came out and it was great for them. I just happy for them to be there and see me pitch.”

Question: What is your best pitch?

“My best pitch is a strike!! (Everyone laughing) But that is the best pitch in the game (seriously). A strike is the best pitch in the game. But a fastball is definitely what I live by.”

Final Question from Charlie: You are pitching at Potomac last year—lights out. They tell you that you are going up to the next level. Then, you are not there very long at Double A and on you go to AAA and by late July—it’s The Big Leagues. Were you shocked each time they told you, you were moving up?

“I was most shocked moving up to Double A. I was most nervous moving up to Double A. Just because I had never been above Single A ball. That was definitely the most nerve racking. I was the most nervous then.”

“Don’t get me wrong that I was not nervous getting the call to The Big Leagues. (AAA Manager) John Stearns called me into his office and told me I was going to pitch in Philly—I was definitely very nervous. But, there was talk about me going up, so I was mentally building myself up. But when I got called up to Double A, I had no clue. And they (The Organization) just threw it on me and I said—Wow!”

With that answer the Q & A Session of The ESPN Zone "Meet & Greet" with John Lannan came to an end. Our Number 31 then signed autographs and took pictures with those attending. There will be one more Lunch Time "Meet and Greet" in September--date and player to be announced.


Anonymous said...

Again, why do we have newspapers in this town when we have blogs like Nats 320 and NFA?

Great job Jeff. Sorry we didn't get to talk last night. We'll see if we can get to some games in Sep (crossing fingers).

Anonymous said...

Batting Stance Guy just posted a Nats video on you tube. this guy is great.