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Mets sign Long Beach product John Lannan to minor-league contract

John Lannan throws a pitch against the Mets

John Lannan throws a pitch against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. (June 23, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

The Mets on Saturday signed lefthander John Lannan to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. The Long Beach and Chaminade product will compete for the wide-open fifth spot in the rotation in an attempt to add a new chapter to the ol' local-kid-makes-good story.

Lannan, 29, won 36 games for Washington from 2008-2011 but made only six major-league starts for the Nationals in 2012. He spent 2013 with the Phillies, going 3-6 with a 5.33 ERA in 14 starts before having season-ending left knee surgery in August.

It would fit nicely to report that Lannan was a rabid Mets fan growing up and finally is getting a chance to play for his favorite team, but that would be stretching the truth. Lannan was more of a Yankees fan growing up.

As Lannan diplomatically put it in a telephone interview Saturday, "Growing up, I definitely had a lot of Yankee influences. But I never shied away from going to Shea. So equally I can tie my baseball memories back to both teams.''

Of more importance to the Mets than whom Lannan rooted for is whether he can return to the form he showed when he averaged 30.5 starts for the Nationals from 2008-11. Lannan has a career record of 45-58 with a 4.12 ERA.

Physically, he said he's "100 percent. There's going to be nothing holding me back. I got cleared a few weeks ago by the doctor who performed my surgery out in L.A., so I'm ready to go.''

Lannan will compete with Jenrry Mejia and prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom and perhaps others for the spot behind Jonathon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.

If he makes the team, Lannan will get to pitch in front of the hometown fans, including many relatives. He has scores of family members living on Long Island and Queens and his wife is from New Jersey.

"It's great,'' said Lannan's father, Ed. "We're really excited. We're just excited that he's here. We believe John's just coming into his prime. He had an injury last year that set him back a little bit, but we believe he's going to be better than ever.''

In addition to pitching for the Mets, Lannan hopes to continue pitching in for Long Beach. He and his wife, Maryanne, organized a collection and delivered supplies to his hometown soon after superstorm Sandy.

"When Sandy hit, it hit a lot of people we know,'' Lannan said. "My wife and I did everything we could to kind of reach out and help.''

Notes & quotes: Gee avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract worth a reported $3.625 million . . . The Mets also agreed to a minor-league deal with infielder Omar Quintanilla as a possible backup to Ruben Tejada. Quintanilla, 32, hit .222 in 95 games for the Mets last season. The Mets have not ruled out a short-term contract for free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew; they are patiently waiting for Drew and agent Scott Boras to find a long-term deal if they can. Drew hit .253 with 13 homers for the Red Sox last year.

New York Sports