A lot of teams do not want to take on Lannan's $5 million salary, and the Nationals are not willing to eat the salary. Rizzo already has said that he will not give Lannan away.
Lannan's demotion was a surprise. Manager Davey Johnson announced last week that Lannan would be the fifth starter after Chien-Ming Wang strained his left hamstring in mid-March against the Yankees.
But Ross Detwiler outperformed Lannan this spring. Detwiler, at 26 a year younger than Lannan, is now the fifth starter in the rotation. Lannan had a 5.14 ERA, while Detwiler had a 3.16 ERA this spring.
"I've known John Lannan for a long time. He is an ultra-competitive person," Rizzo said. "He is frustrated, upset and mad. If he was any other way, I would wonder about him. He has been a solid contributor for the franchise for a long time. He is a good, solid starting pitcher in the big leagues.
"Unfortunately, it was about a roster spot, and that we had five guys better than him. He did not feel he could perform well out of the bullpen, [which] was another factor. This is about bringing the best 25 north, winning games in 2012 and beyond. We thought Ross Detwiler allowed us to win games in 2012 and beyond. This is a young stud we feel is going to be part of our long-term puzzle."
Asked if he made a mistake by announcing that Lannan would be in the rotation, Johnson said, "No, because, all things considered, he was a big winner the previous year. ... Seeing the work that Detwiler did in the spring and how he came off last year -- he came out of my 'pen and started and only got better. In discussions with Rizzo and the coaches, it became very clear that the few starts [Detwiler] was going to get -- before Chien-Ming Wang came back -- it would be better served as an organization [if we gave the starts] to Det.
"We know John Lannan is a good pitcher," Johnson continued. "But we are still developing Det. It was a good decision, an organizational decision, which I totally went along with."