DENVER -- The Nationals have decided to shut down left-hander John Lannan immediately as a starter and send him down to Triple-A Columbus after Sunday's game against the Rockies. That means right-hander Jason Bergmann will pitch on Tuesday night against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Lannan, who is not hurt, will work out of the bullpen and return to the Major League team on Sept. 1 in the same role. General manager Jim Bowden said it was a tough decision to send Lannan down, but the team wants to protect his arm. Lannan has pitched over 150 innings while playing for Class A Potomac, Double-A Harrisburg, Columbus and the Nationals. "We have to keep him healthy. With his innings pitched from last year to this year, if we don't reduce [the innings] dramatically, the risk of injury becomes high based on historical data," Bowden said. "[Pitching coach] Randy St. Claire is going to put him on a plan where Lannan is going to pitch an inning or two down there. He is going to come back when the rosters expand, but we need a starter for Tuesday."
Lannan was told of the team's decision on Friday and took the news well. He said that he has come a long way. In his first two years in professional baseball, Lannan wasn't on the team's radar screen because he was inconsistent on the mound. "This year has been so great. I've thrown as much as I could throw," said Lannan, who won a combined 13 games this season. [Pitching coordinator)] Spin Williams and the pitching coaches that I was surrounded by were helpful. It was really a great experience." During the offseason, Lannan is looking to get a head start into next season by playing winter ball. He pointed out that it is tough to workout in Long Island, N.Y., because of the cold weather. "I'm going to work [hard] -- even more so than last year. I'm going to try to come into the best shape possible," Lannan said. "If I could play winter ball, I would do it in a heartbeat. I love pitching -- just to get away from the cold weather. When I'm in the cold weather, you don't get a chance to throw outside. I don't throw on a real mound until I go to Florida. I'm inside a gym on a plastic mound." As for Bergmann, he has been on the disabled list for almost a month because of tightness in his left hamstring. In his last rehab start on Thursday for Columbus, Bergman pitched seven shutout innings and gave up six hits against Louisville. He struck out nine batters in the game. Injury report: Outfielder Alex Escobar is more than likely out for the year. He is having an MRI exam on his left ankle, which has bothered him since before the All-Star break. "He is still in pain. He has been through a lot," Bowden said. On the mound: After watching closer Chad Cordero give up seven earned runs in two innings, St. Claire said that Cordero has to fix some mechanical issues on the mound. Cordero is throwing three-quarters sidearm instead of coming over the top. "When he goes down and away, the ball goes middle in, and you can't command the fastball," St. Claire said. "If you can't command your fastball, you are in big trouble." Stats of the day: The Nationals are 37-7 when they score five or more runs in a game. Did you know? Entering Saturday's action, Austin Kearns leads the Nationals in walks with 54. Coming up: The Nationals play the third game of a three-game series against the Rockies at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. ET. Washington right-hander Joel Hanrahan will face Colorado right-hander Elmer Dessens.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.