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John Lannan allowed one run over three innings tonight.
Now that the left-hander really isn't assured of a job come April, that mindset is coming in handy.
"I've competed for a spot every year, I feel," Lannan said tonight following his three-inning start against the Mets. "I never took a spot for granted. It just drives me to learn something every day and be a better pitcher."
In the first outing of a 2012 camp that sees him facing an uphill battle to retain his rotation spot, Lannan put together a start not that atypical for him. He was neither spectacular nor horrible. In short, he got the job done, allowing one run on three hits, walking one and striking out one.
The most encouraging stat of the night: Lannan managed to get through three full innings on an economical 43 pitches (27 strikes), becoming the first Nationals starter to go that far in the early portion of camp.
"It felt good," he said. "I got into a rhythm there in the second and third. I'm happy with it."
Perhaps a bit jittery when he took the mound for the first time this spring, Lannan's night got off to a ragged start, walking Mets leadoff man Andres Torres, then letting him steal second. When Daniel Murphy followed with a single up the middle, New York had an early 1-0 lead.
Lannan, though, settled down quickly after that, getting out of the first inning by inducing a 4-6-3 double play from cleanup hitter Ike Davis. And when he again got into trouble in the third, putting two on with one out, he battled and got Murphy to line out and Justin Turner to ground out.
"Johnny was real good," manager Davey Johnson said. "I liked what I saw. He threw the ball good, gave me three good innings. ... Typically he was a little pumped up and overthrowing early. He does that, he's real aggressive early. But he generally settles down and hits his spots and makes it look easy."
So the first round of the month-long battle for the fifth starter's job is now complete, with both contenders scoring 10 points for an even fight. Chien-Ming Wang began the day with two strong innings in an intrasquad minor-league game. Lannan responded with three solid innings against most of New York's regulars.
Round 2 comes Saturday, with Wang scheduled to face this Mets team in Viera and Lannan headed to Lakeland to pitch against the Tigers in a split-squad game.
Much as he tries not to keep score and focus solely on preparing himself for the season, Lannan understands the situation he's in.
"You really can't look at results too much," he said. "I'm competing for a spot, and I'm competing out there against teams I'll be facing in the regular season. I'm trying to get work in, but I'm also trying to compete."