Lannan ejected against Phils
Left-hander plunks Utley and Howard in big-league debut
PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals left-hander John Lannan made his Major League debut against the Phillies on Thursday afternoon and it was an eventful one at that. Lannan was ejected by home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in the fifth inning.
In that inning with one out and the Phillies leading, 3-2, Lannan hit Chase Utley and Ryan Howard with pitches. After Howard was hit, Wendelstedt ejected Lannan, who immediately left the game. According to baseball historian David Vincent, Lannan became the first player since Reds infielder Aaron Boone in 1997 to be ejected in his Major League debut.
Manager Manny Acta argued on Lannan's behalf to no avail. Acta argued for about a minute. After he went to the mound to call his relief pitcher, Acta continued the argument and was ejected. According to Wendelstedt, Acta never used profanity during the argument and called Acta "a good guy."
After the game, Acta said that he was surprised that Lannan was ejected, because, when the Nationals were arguing balls and strikes earlier in the game, Wendelstedt informed the team that Lannan was all over the place when it came to the strike zone.
"I don't think this kid would want to come up to the big leagues in his debut, and make that type of impression and start hitting guys," Acta said.
Even Utley did not think Lannan was trying to hurt him. Utley is now on the disabled list because of a broken hand.
"I don't think he was trying to hit me. It got away from him," Utley said.
Lannan lasted 4 1/3 innings and gave up five runs -- four earned. He struck out one batter and walked two others in the game. Lannan said he did not mean to hit Utley or Howard. He had problems locating his two-seam fastball.
Lannan acknowledged that he wasn't his usual self. He said every time he was promoted this year, he had adjustment problems in his first start. Lannan was a combined 12-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 122 2/3 innings. He did it while playing for Class A Potomac, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Columbus.
"I'm pretty shocked," Lannan said about the ejection. "I wasn't throwing at anybody. I was trying to make pitches. It got away from me. I was trying to go inside. With Utley, it just got away from me. I was trying to go inside with two strikes. With Howard, I was trying to do the same thing. I was trying to get ahead."
|Most recent ejections in debut game|
|Andy Carter||PHI||05/03/1994||Hitting two of three batters|
|Sid Roberson||MIL||05/20/1995||Throwing at batter after warning|
|Doug Johns||OAK||07/08/1995||Throwing at batter|
|Aaron Boone||CIN||06/20/1997||Throwing helmet arguing third strike|
|John Lannan||WAS||07/26/2007||Hit two straight batters|
"With the situation, the at-bat before, Howard hit a home run. When he hits a home run, Howard kind of watched the home run go. I just got kind of a vibe," Wendelstedt told a pool reporter. "I know he is a young pitcher, but he was upset and he watched Howard as he did his trot. Justifiably, I would have been upset, too.
"Unfortunately, when he came up, he got hit with the first pitch, which hit him in the shoulder. My hands are tied with the new MLB guidelines that have been in for about four or five years. Once a player hits a home run, they call it a red flag. It was just a bad time to lose his control. I can't read his mind. I don't know if he intentionally did it or not. Like I told Manny, I can't judge my decision whether the guy has been in the league 20 years or his first day. ... I have to treat everybody the same whether they are a young kid or veteran player."
Lannan's parents, Ed and Florence, and at least 45 members of his family and friends were in the stands watching the game and it was clear to Ed that his son was not trying to hurt Utley and Howard.
"If you look back the whole game, John was missing that outside corner to righties and he was having problems locating that pitch," Ed said. "It seemed to be running away from him. I know my son. Those were definitely not intentional pitches."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.