The Nats selected the contracts of outfielder Brett Carroll, outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady and first baseman Chad Tracy. The club also optioned left-handed pitcher John Lannan to Triple-A Syracuse, released reliever Chad Durbin and placed Drew Storen, Chien-Ming Wang, Cole Kimball, Rick Ankiel, Michael Morse and Chris Marrero on the disabled list.
Of the names mentioned, Lannan's demotion was the biggest surprise. It was last week that manager Davey Johnson announced that Lannan would be the fifth starter after Wang strained his left hamstring March 15 against the Yankees.
But as the days went by this spring, Ross Detwiler outperformed Lannan and is now Washington's fifth starter. Lannan had a 5.14 ERA, while Detwiler had a 3.06 ERA this spring. What was also not in Lannan's favor was that he still had a Minor League option, so he was an easy choice to be sent down.
"I look at it this way, Detwiler earned the job," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He deserved the job. It was a prudent baseball move for the current Nationals and the future Nationals. There are only five starters in the rotation. We have five guys that we feel that are better than [Lannan], and he has options left."
The Nationals also came to the conclusion that Lannan couldn't handle a role in the bullpen, which is why right-hander Craig Stammen made the team. Even though Stammen is a starter by trade, he has been able to make an adjustment to being a long reliever.
"I feel great for [Detwiler]. He's definitely deserving," Stammen said. "He's throwing the ball better than I've ever seen him throw it. It's unfortunate that John has to suffer from that, but that's the nature of the game. Unfortunately, baseball isn't always as fun as it was when we were kids and there's a business part of it at this level. That's the tough part of it today."
Lannan is a person the Nationals tried to trade this past offseason and during Spring Training, but the team couldn't get a serious taker. Part of the problem was that Washington wanted a lot in return for Lannan. Opposing teams were not willing to trade, for example, a starting position player for him. The club was looking to acquire a starting center fielder and will most likely have Roger Bernadina assume the position on Opening Day.
According to Johnson, Lannan took the news hard. Detwiler will probably get three or four starts before returning to the bullpen as a long reliever. Wang is expected to be back with the Nationals in late April or early May.
"John pitched good for me," said Johnson. "He is a good big league pitcher. It's really more about Ross Detwiler. Ross did a good job last year in the rotation. He had an outstanding spring. There [are] probably three or four starts [for Detwiler] before Chien-Ming comes back. ... It was a very difficult decision. It was a tough one. I respect and like John Lannan a lot. It's really more about giving Detwiler an opportunity. ... It's a tough day. It's not the way I like to end Spring Training."
Detwiler said he was surprised when he learned that he was being placed in the rotation to start the season.
"I came to terms with going to the bullpen and being the long guy and waiting for an opportunity," Detwiler said. "It came up a whole lot quicker than I thought it would."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.