Tanner Roark Running Away With Washington Nationals' Fifth Starter Spot

By Nick Comando
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals‘ competition for their fifth starter was supposed to be resolved by now. When an injury to Doug Fister‘s lat popped up, the expectation was that the competition would extend into the first week or two of Washington’s season. However, it will now extend into at least the first or second week of May, as Fister is now a matter of weeks from making his much anticipated Washington debut.

Nobody knew it at the time, but it was a blessing in disguise that Fister was hurt and Ross Detwiler was sent to the bullpen. It allowed for a two horse race between Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark. Jordan was believed to be the front runner by most because of his career as a starter. Roark was seen as more of a swing man who could step in as a spot starter when needed, but his true value was seen in the bullpen, and it was a matter of Fister returning before the Nationals could crown Jordan as the No. 5 starter.

Now, that decision has swung in a completely different direction, as Jordan has pitched to a 6.23 ERA in his four starts this season. Jordan has allowed 31 hits in 21.2 innings, and has already allowed three home runs this season. Sure, Jordan has been betrayed by some bad defense at times, but his velocity is also down from last year, and he has suffered from being unable to keep the ball down in the zone, and has an 18.00 ERA in the first inning. Jordan has certainly had a rough go of it, that much is for sure, but it does not mean Jordan should be kicked to the curb.; he probably just needs more minor league seasoning.

Jordan’s competitor, Roark, has been going in a markedly opposite direction. Aside from dominating the San Diego Padres yesterday afternoon in his first career complete game shutout, Roark has pitched to a 2.76 ERA in his five starts this season. He has also allowed 29 hits in 32.2 innings, striking out 26 and walking nine. Roark is nothing short of dominant at home, as he has allowed only one run in 35 career innings, good enough for a 0.26 ERA. Needless to say, Roark has taken the fifth starter spot firmly in his hand, and has run away and hidden with it.

Roark has been able to do everything Jordan has not — minimize big innings, go deep into games, pitch around poor defense at times, and keep the other teams offense in check. Sure, he has had a rough start where he failed to finish the fifth innings, but every other start, Roark has gone at least six innings compared to Jordan, who has only surpassed the fifth inning once this season. Jordan has also seen his ERA steadily balloon as the season has progressed, as Roark lowers his steadily.

Roark may simply be too hot to stop right now, and Jordan may just be in a rough patch he can get out of. The fact of the matter however is, the Nationals are in no position to allow this to go any farther once Fister returns. Roark has more than earned this job, and it should be a formality when Fister does return.

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