Veteran returns home for third start of season

John Lannan returns home on Wednesday.

The Nationals' 27-year-old left-hander grew up in Long Beach, New York -- just 19 miles from Citi Field, where he will start a big league game for just the third time this season. He will be pitching in front of friends and family, yes, but also once again for the organization where he was a mainstay for four-and-a-half years.

When Washington needed to patch its overmatched rotation in 2007 and 2008 Lannan was there as a rookie and performed admirable. When the team asked him to return to Double-A in 2010 for a few weeks to iron out mechanical issues and lingering elbow pain he went down for six weeks and returned to contribute later that season. Twice Lannan even started on Opening Day.

Nationals at Mets
John Lannan (2-0, 3.46 ERA)
vs. Matt Harvey (3-4, 3.04 ERA)
When » Wednesday, 7:10 p.m
Where » Citi Field, New York
Radio » 106.7 The Fan,
WFFED 1500,
WHFS 1580
The Nationals cross another National League East division foe off the schedule for 2012. They finish with the Marlins or Sunday, buth they finished 9-9 against last-place Miami. They'll probably miss the New York Mets a whole lot more. Washington won 13 of its 17 meetings vs. the Mets this season. It alsos won the season series against the New York in 2011 (10-8) and split the year before. The Mets haven't won an overall season series vs. Washington since 2009. The Nats still have tree games left with second-place Atlanta and six with third-place Philadelphia.

And now, after spending almost all of 2012 in Triple-A because the team found better pitchers who, improbably, stayed healthy all year, Lannan is back to relieve Stephen Strasburg and help finish a pennant race. The pitcher who thought he had made the team out of spring training still has a shot at making a lasting mark on this season.

"I don't think too many guys have experienced that in their careers," teammate Tyler Clippard said earlier this summer. "[Lannan has] had nothing but success at the big league level and done such great things for our team up here. It just is a testament to how good we are, how good our staff is."

Lannan has been up twice this season already for spot starts and is actually 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA. But both times he had his bags packed for the trip back to Syracuse, knowing that even a no-hitter wouldn't earn him a spot in the rotation. It finally took Strasburg succumbing to the mental strain of his innings limit over the weekend and the team deciding to end his year one start early to get Lannan back. He will pitch his 131st game on Wednesday and has a career ERA of 3.99. That's not Strasburg, but it's not a bad fallback plan, either.

"I feel good about where we're at," manager Davey Johnson said.