As part of my fundraising campaign to cover spring training, I offered readers who contributed at least $60 the opportunity to submit a question to a member of the Nationals. Manager Jim Riggleman and four players (Ryan Zimmerman, Nyjer Morgan, John Lannan and Drew Storen) were gracious enough to participate. Readers were randomly paired up with one of those five gentlemen, and I conducted the interviews over the last few days.
Here is the second installment of the Reader Q&A, featuring left-hander John Lannan...
Andrew Lang (Potomac, Md.): In all the items presented to you from fans to get autographed, is there one that stands out the most as either your favorite or strangest item?
John Lannan: A bowling ball. That was pretty cool. We also signed the gas tank of a chopper, like a motorcycle. So that was pretty cool. It was an auction. They brought the gas tank out and we signed it and they auctioned it off. But the bowling ball was pretty weird, too. I signed a golf ball before, too. Just little things that are kind of weird.
Carolyn Deck (Fairfax, Va.): You have such grit on the mound, and you never seem to get rattled. How do you prepare mentally and keep your composure under sometimes difficult circumstances?
John Lannan: I just go pitch-to-pitch. Whatever happens, happens. And I don't let it affect the next pitch. I just go out and throw my best pitch in that situation. And if they get a hit, you tip your cap and move on.
Patrick Reddington (Springfield, N.J.): There's a bit of a debate in the stats community about how you are able to succeed without getting many strikeouts. Last year, you had the fewest strikeouts-per-nine innings of all pitchers with an ERA under 4.00. How do you get so many outs on balls put into play?
John Lannan: I mean, I don't know. I know I'm not a strikeout pitcher. I don't go out there and try to strike guys out. There's only a few guys in the game that can actually do that. I just work to my strength, and that's just a located fastball down and away. It basically just misses the sweet spot. They make good contact, but it's always on the ground. So that's what I try to do. If I get a strikeout here and there, it works. But it also helps my pitch count get down. If I give up a single, and the next pitch is a groundball double play, then that's four or five pitches and two outs. I pride myself in groundballs. I'll take a groundball over a strikeout any day.
Zev Feder (Washington, D.C.): How do you throw a big curveball without excess elbow stress? Any history here? I used to throw one and knew tendinitis was in my future.
John Lannan: Can I knock on wood real quick? [Laughs] The curveball is basically the same arm action as your fastball. As long as it's the same arm slot, there shouldn't be any problem. When you get into trouble is when you try to manipulate it, or you really turn your wrist. That puts a lot of pressure on your elbow and your shoulder. So my curveball is just as fluid as my fastball.
Sonny Griffith (Reston, Va.): How do you protect your arm in cold weather? Do you rub any kind of liniment on your arm for protection?
John Lannan: You know what? I grew up in New York. Pitching in cold weather is one of my favorite things to do. I wear no sleeves in snow. So I really don't do anything. I just make sure I keep warm between innings. I really don't put ointments or anything on there to keep it warm.
Jenn Jenson (Washington, D.C.): My favorite game last year was your complete-game shutout of the Mets. That was also Jim Riggleman's first win as interim manager, and you handed him the game ball. I'm sure that would have been a special souvenir for you, so ... what were you thinking when you have the ball to Jim?
John Lannan: You know, I thought it was a special moment. It was his first win. We didn't win right off the bat [after he took over as interim manager], so I just thought it was special to give it to him. But he ended up giving it back to me. So it's alright. [Mark Zuckerman: And where is it now?] It's in my room somewhere back at home with all of my special balls. When I get a house or something, I'll make sure to put it in a special place. But right now, it's sitting with the rest of my balls: first strikeout, all that kind of stuff.