Washington Nationals' Tanner Roark Could Be Leading Candidate for Fifth Rotation Spot

By Evan Szymkowicz
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Explained in Tuesday’s article, the Washington Nationals biggest problem to address after last year is the back of the rotation. The leading in-house candidates for the fifth spot in the pitching rotation are Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark.

One will join Stephen StrasburgGio GonzalezJordan Zimmermann, and Ross Detwiler to form one of the more formidable young pitching rotations in the National League.

Washington remains steadfast in their commitment to building from within, and general manager Mike Rizzo appears content not pursuing a veteran free-agent starter. Dan Haren, who had a very effective second half for Washington last year, is set to leave after completing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Today we will examine Roark.

Roark, 27, was an unknown quantity heading into the 2013 season, but pitched admirably for Washington in the September push to make the postseason.

Originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2008, Roark was acquired for Christian Guzman at the 2010 trade deadline. He spent all of 2011 and most of 2012 at triple A Syracuse, splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation with less than spectacular numbers. In one calendar year, Roark went from losing 17 games and being left off the 40-man roster to a possible member of an opening day starting rotation.

Seemingly an afterthought, Roark had a very successful rookie campaign. In 15 appearances (five starts), he held the opposition to an impressive 1.51 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.

Perhaps more impressive was his ability to make pitches in key moments. In the second start of a double-header against the Atlanta Braves at the height of the wild card chase, Roark held Atlanta to two hits and one walk over seven innings. He struck out six batters while reaching 94mph on his fastball in a start that earned the praise of manager Davey Johnson.

Barring Rizzo pulling off something of a surprise move, competition for the fifth starter in 2014 appears to be narrowed down to Roark and Jordan. Who has the inside edge remains to be seen, but Roark’s impressive pitching in important starts for the franchise endeared him to the Washington front office, perhaps giving him a slight head start for 2014.

Impressive for a 27-year-old who was not a starting pitcher in 2012.

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