Tanner Roark Makes Strong Case for Washington Nationals' Fifth Starter Spot

By Brian Skinnell
Tanner Roark Nationals
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On Sunday afternoon in his first start since being named a finalist for the Washington Nationals‘ fifth starter spot, Tanner Roark made quite a case in his start against the New York Mets.

In 5.2 innings of work, Roark give up one run on two hits while striking out five. He needed 73 pitches to get through his outing, 49 of them strikes. One of his hits, a double in the second inning, didn’t allow a base runner, as Bryce Harper gunned down Chris Young as he tried to stretch it to a triple. It was a sensational play in its own right.

This spring, Roark has gotten better and better with each appearance. Through four outings, he has pitched 11.2 innings giving up 11 hits, five runs, three walks and 11 strikeouts. His latest outing was his longest and most effective. The Mets sent the likes of David Wright, Ruben Tejada and Curtis Ganderson to the dish, and Roark had no troubles sending them back to the dugout. Collectively, they picked up just one hit.

Roark’s competition, Taylor Jordan, also had a solid start since being named a finalist for the fifth starter spot. Last Wednesday, Mar. 19, Jordan threw a solid five innings against the Houston Astros. He allowed one run on three hits while striking out five. Both Jordan and Roark have had strong Springs, and expect them to get better now that the competition is heating up.

After Sunday’s start, you can give the advantage to Roark. He was efficient in his work and did a good job locating his pitches. He kept the ball low in the zone and induced numerous ground-ball outs. While a couple of balls were hit hard, Roark didn’t let those affect him and he stayed locked in on the mound.

I see Roark as a guy who will make the Opening Day roster regardless of how this pitching battle finishes. He’s too good to send back down to the minors when you could just as easily have him in the bullpen. However, I think he has proven this spring, and at the end of last season, that he’s more than ready to be a starting pitcher. If he continues this level of pitching to finish the spring, Roark will be the fifth man in the rotation come Opening Day.

In his fourth start of the season, first since Matt Williams revealed his plans for the Opening Day pitching staff, Roark put together a gem on the mound in which he didn’t allow a run until the fifth inning. While there is still some work left to be done this spring, he made quite a strong case for the fifth starter spot in the rotation.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.

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