CLEARWATER, Fla. - There is no doubt about John Lannan's job description. He was and is a starting pitcher, looking to revive his career in the Phillies' formidable starting rotation. Just once, though, at a key time, he provided relief.
He and his wife organized a collection and delivered supplies to his hometown of Long Beach two weeks after superstorm Sandy. "This is the first time I'm actually talking about it," he said in the Phillies' clubhouse before their game against the Yankees Tuesday. "We didn't want to make a big deal about it. We just wanted to help out."
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They live in Tampa now, but his parents, relatives and roots still are on Long Island (and his wife is from New Jersey). "Watching it unfold," he said, "we were like 'Holy crap.' As soon as we recognized the extent of the damage, we felt like we needed to help."
Right away, they issued an alert through an online network run by wives of major-league ballplayers. "The response was just unbelievable," the lefthanded pitcher said, adding that within a week they had amassed cleaning supplies, work boots, tools and bottled water. A week after that, the Lannans were in a truck, dispensing all of it on Nassau County's South Shore.
He said that when he and his wife returned to Long Island at Christmas, "I would go in the bagel store and I would hear people saying they were just finishing up [repairs]. So it's tough, but New Yorkers are tough and they'll get through it."
That came from a pitcher who had to dip into his personal toughness reservoir in 2012. After having been a mainstay for lousy Nationals teams, he spent most of the season in the minors and did not make the postseason roster. In fact, during Sandy, he still didn't have a job.
"He went through a rough time last year. I'm sure that was tough on him, but he battled through it. He pitched well when he came up, I know that," said Kyle Kendrick, the Phillies' No. 4 starter who pitched the first two innings Tuesday.
So the Phillies -- no longer the clear favorites in the National League East -- have obvious strengths and glaring question marks. Can Michael Young and Delmon Young be everyday position players? Will Chase Utley be healthy? The latter was held out Tuesday because the field was wet, causing momentary angst.
For Lannan, it is a relief to be here. "I basically told them," the No. 5 starter said, " 'Listen, this is all new to me. Tell me the ways and I'll listen.' That's what I've basically been doing."