Washington Nationals: Tanner Roark Is Next Man Up

By James Williams
Brad Barr – USA Today Sports

Well, the Washington Nationals fans are about meet 26-year-old right-handed pitcher Tanner Roark , the next man up in system from Syracuse. With left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler being moved to the 60-day DL and right-hander Ross Ohlendorf still on the 15-day DL, it was Roark’s turn.

We know that Ohlendorf was the prime candidate to take over rookie right-hander Taylor Jordan’s spot in the rotation when he is shut down later this month in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

However, that job is likely to go to Roark — at least till Ohlendorf can come off the DL in a little over a week. Here is hoping that he is a late bloomer and can come from out of nowhere like Ohlendorf to be the fifth starter, at least for a while.

Why haven’t we seen Tanner Roark in a Nationals uniform?

Well, this is an organization that loves power arms, and that is not Roark’s style. He is a soft-tosser, a guy who relies on his ability to spot his pitches and get ground ball outs.

He is a career minor leaguer, and Roark went 9-3 with two saves, four holds and a 3.15 ERA in 33 games (11 starts) this season. He ranks among qualified International League pitchers in WHIP (0.99, first), batting average against (.217, tied for first) and earned run average (seventh), while posting a 4.1 K/BB in 105.2 innings. Roark tallied an 8-1 record with two saves and a 1.55 ERA in 81.1 IP over his last 25 games (eight starts).

In 22 relief appearances with Syracuse in ‘13, Roark posted an  8.5 K/9 with a 2.40 ERA and .178 BAA. The 26-year-old stranded 10 of 11 inherited runners out of the ‘pen.

Roark is 49-40 with three saves, 13 holds and owns a 3.79 ERA in 163 games (96 starts) during six seasons in the Nationals (2010-13) and Texas Rangers (’08-10) organizations. He was acquired by Washington in a three-player trade that sent shortstop Cristian Guzman to Texas on July 31, 2010.

So for Roark, his first real big league chance is one that he better make work. You simply don’t see too many 26-year-old rookies starters in the big leagues.

Rant Sports columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.

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