Lannan making strong spring impression

Phillies starting pitcher John Lannan. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- John Lannan already had a spot in the Phillies' rotation when he arrived for the start of spring training.

All he's done in his five Grapefruit League appearances is prove that he deserved it.

The veteran lefty who was discarded by the Washington Nationals after spending most of last season in the minor leagues lowered his spring-training ERA to 3.21 Friday by throwing five scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.

"John Lannan was real good today," manager Charlie Manuel said. "In the last two years, he has really been improving with his command. He can put the ball on both sides of the plate. He can do a lot more with it now than he used to."

Lannan, a seventh-year veteran the Phillies signed as a free agent, allowed just two hits, walked one batter and struck out four. He was most happy with the way he threw his changeup after the first inning.

"I'd like to work on getting it softer and right now it's in a good place," Lannan said. "I wasn't getting the differential I wanted to keep them off balance. I throw 88 and the changeup was 85 or 86. The differential needs to be bigger and that's what I was working on today and I was happy with it."

Lannan, 28, went 42-52 with a 4.01 ERA in his six seasons with the Nationals, but spent most of last year at triple-A Syracuse because he did not fit into Washington's plans. He has openly admitted it bothered him.

"I've always had a chip on my shoulder, but to be told you're not good enough, it's kind of hard to take," Lannan said. "It just made me make a little harder. Yeah, it definitely changed me. Becoming a free agent, I came to a place that I thought I'd have a shot and they've shown they're going to give me that shot."

So far, he's taking advantage of it, but not taking it for granted.

"I've said before, the spring is not over yet," he said. "A lot of things can happen. (Nationals manager) Davey (Johnson) came out last year and said I was his guy and I obviously wasn't. So until I'm pitching on whatever day, I'll talk about it then."

Extra bases. The Phillies only had four hits in their 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Rays and three of them did not leave the infield. Kevin Frandsen and Ben Revere reached on bunt singles and Dom Brown legged out an infield single. Carlos Ruiz accounted for the Phillies' only run with an RBI single in the second inning off Rays lefty Matt Moore.