Results tagged ‘ tanner roark ’

Nats face tough decision with playoff rotation

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — One thing is clear for the Nationals when it comes to filling out their starting rotation for the postseason: There are no bad options.

Right-hander Tanner Roark tossed a solid 6 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Mets, earning his 15th win and lowering his ERA to 2.85, which puts him in the top 20 in the Majors. Yet there is a strong possibility that Roark won’t be among Washington’s four starters for the NL Division Series.

Manager Matt Williams has yet to announce anything regarding the playoff rotation, as each of his pitchers enjoys a strong finish.

“When they go out there, they compete,” he said. “It makes for tough decisions, but those are good tough decisions.”

Stephen Strasburg, treated as the staff ace all year, has a 1.34 ERA and 33-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last five outings. Jordan Zimmermann, consistently effective for four straight seasons, has a 2.11 ERA during a streak of 11 straight quality starts. Doug Fister, who has a stellar postseason resume, owns a 2.55 ERA after three straight solid outings. Gio Gonzalez, the rotation’s only lefty, has come on strong with a 2.79 ERA while posting six straight quality starts.

Roark, meanwhile, has done absolutely nothing to lose his spot. Consistently dependable throughout the season, the 27-year-old owns a 2.54 ERA in 14 starts since July 13.

Yet with four more established, experienced options in play, Roark could be the odd man out. He’s also thrown 198 2/3 innings this season, easily his most as a professional, and could be an asset out of the bullpen. As a reliever for the Nats in 2013, he gave up three earned runs on 14 hits and struck out 19 in 22 2/3 innings.

“You’ve got to keep doing your job,” he said of the situation. “You go out there each day, work hard each day in between starts and go out there whenever your name is called. You can’t really think about it.”

The Nats have the luxury of enjoying rare rotation depth, with each of their five starters throwing at least 150 innings with an ERA+ of 100 or better (ERA+ adjusts ERA for league and ballpark, with 100 the average). The last team to do that in a season, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index, was the 2011 Rangers. Only four clubs have accomplished the feat since 1991.

“All the guys we’ve got deserve that spot,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “I’m just glad it’s not my decision.”

Soon, the Nats will have the make the call. No matter what, someone will be rightfully disappointed, but Williams isn’t worried that will cause a problem.

“Of course they’ll understand,” he said. “At this point in the year, not everybody will like it, but everybody will understand. We’re all on the same end of the rope, and everybody must do their part to get where we want to get to.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

For Nats GM Rizzo, ‘there are no small trades’

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — A little more than a year after the D-backs selected him in the ninth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Zach Walters was shipped to the Nationals at the ‘11 Trade Deadline for veteran pitcher Jason Marquis.

Three years of development later, Walters turned out to be the piece Nats general manager Mike Rizzo needed to acquire infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians ahead of Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET Deadline. The move signaled how every deal — even those considered to be minor — can send ripples well out into the future.

“If there’s one thing we’ve shown here, it’s that there are no small trades,” Rizzo said. “All the trades are important to us. They can be characterized at the time you make them as a small deal, but sometimes the small deals turn into gold.”

Walters, then 21, had only 166 Class A games under his belt when Washington acquired him. In his new organization, he worked his way up the ladder, getting brief tastes of the Majors each of the past two seasons. This year, at 24, he was tearing up International League pitching at Triple-A Syracuse, hitting .300/.358/.608 with 38 extra-base hits, including 15 homers, while playing four different positions.

“He’s played well coming up in our Minor League system,” Rizzo said. “Our developers did a great job with him. We [traded for] him as a young A-ball player that was really kind of unproven, but our scouts recognized something in him.”

But Walters is not the only example Rizzo can point to of a “minor” trade paying significant dividends.

At the 2010 deadline, Rizzo shipped veteran infielder Christian Guzman to the Rangers for a pair of prospects, including right-hander Tanner Roark. It took Roark some time to blossom, but after a strong debut in ‘13, he’s posted a 2.74 ERA in 21 starts this season.

Including Cabrera, the Nats will have a 25-man roster that includes 10 players acquired via trade. They range from blockbusters like the Doug Fister deal this past winter to swaps that only became huge later, like a December 2007 exchange of young pitchers that netted the Nats Tyler Clippard, a staple of their bullpen for the past six years.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Tanner Roark’s amazing run continues

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Tanner Roark was a 25th-round Draft choice who bounced between starting and relieving while posting a 4.21 ERA in his first five Minor League seasons. He entered 2013 at 26 years old and as nobody’s idea of a hot prospect.

Yet somehow, Roark’s big league performance over the past two years has surpassed anything he ever did in the Minors. Sunday afternoon brought the most striking example, as the right-hander dominated the Padres during a three-hit shutout that stood as a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings. That dropped his career ERA to 1.98 through 86 1/3 innings.

A look at Roark by the numbers:

  • 8: Roark’s career-high strikeout total Saturday, including four in the span of five batters at one point.
  • 8 1/3: The most innings Roark had thrown in a professional game at any level before Saturday.
  • 105: Roark’s pitch count, the second-lowest by any pitcher in a shutout this season.
  • 14-to-3: Roark’s ratio of groundouts to flyouts. Entering Saturday, he had more flyouts this year.
  • 23: Batters out of 31 that saw a first-pitch strike from Roark.
  • 1: Earned runs allowed by Roark in 35 career innings at Nats Park, a 0.26 ERA.
  • 7: Number of career starts, out of 10, in which Roark has allowed two runs or fewer.
  • .189: Batting average of right-handed hitters against Roark in his career, with no home runs.
  • 3: Roark’s career high in walks. He had one on Saturday, throwing 69.5% strikes.

The soft-spoken native of Wilmington, Ill., isn’t one to spend too many words examining his own success. Asked after Saturday’s game if knew why his Major League performance has eclipsed his Minor League performance, he smiled and said, “You got me.”

Roark and manager Matt Williams both talked about the importance of Roark’s changeup on Saturday, especially against left-handed batters, who went 0-for-17 with one walk and six strikeouts against him. Roark called it his best pitch of the day, over his fastball, slider and curve.

“He’s aggressive,” Williams said. “He threw a lot of really good changeups today for strikes and that’s one of his weapons. He keeps lefties off balance with that. Comeback fastball into the lefties as well.”

That comeback, or two-seam, fastball is important as well. Roark said he’s talked with Livan Hernandez about the way Greg Maddux used to use that pitch to tail back over the inside corner against left-handed batters.

“You see guys jumping out the way because they think it’s going to hit them and it goes right across the plate,” Roark said. “It’s a very effective pitch. The biggest thing for me is I’ve got to stay on the pitch as long as I possibly can and not come out of it.”

How long Roark can stay on his current run of big league success remains to be seen — some regression is inevitable. But at the least, he seems to have solidified his place in a rotation spot he didn’t lock up until Doug Fister went on the disabled list at the end of Spring Training.

“When he takes the mound, it feels like he’s under control to all of us,” Williams said. “There’s definitely a trust factor there.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Even in loss, fifth starters show worth

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

Nationals starter Ross Ohlendorf should share the blame for Wednesday night’s loss to the Braves, which all but crushed Washington’s slim playoff hopes. However, he also deserves his share of credit for helping keep the Nationals in the race in the first place.

Without the efforts of Ohlendorf, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark this season, the Nationals would not be in a last-gasp push for the second Wild Card in the National League.  Together, they have exceeded expectations while filling in for Ross Detwiler, who has been on and off the disabled list with back issues. Ohlendorf, a 31-year-old journeyman, and two rookies have posted a combined 12-4 record and 2.80 ERA this year.

“We knew going in that’s one of the areas we didn’t have a lot of depth,” manager Davey Johnson said. “So hopefully, with Detwiler getting healthy and what these guys have done, and some other arms we’ve got coming, this organization will be in great shape.”

For all their unmet expectations this season, the Nationals’ organizational depth at pitcher has lived up to the hype. First it was Ohlendorf, who debuted an old-school windup in a spot start in Colorado and has provided stability ever since, both as a long reliever and starter. Then it was Jordan, who jumped from Double-A to the Majors in his first season off Tommy John surgery.

Now, Johnson believes that he has found another potential contributor in Roark, who was 6-17 at Triple-A Syracuse last season. On Tuesday night, after Roark’s seventh consecutive win, Johnson compared the right-hander to all-time great Greg Maddux.

“[Minor League pitching coordinator] Spin [Williams] was really high on him this year and all through spring during the year. He certainly has reason to be,” Johnson said of Roark. “Once I saw him pitch up here out of the ‘pen, how he located the ball and used all his pitches, I said, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be good.”

Jordan and Roark both have the potential to earn a long-term role on the Nationals in Spring Training, but they are just two of the many talented arms that will join the rotation in the next couple of years. Stephen Strasburg is only 24. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Detwiler are 27. Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole, Nathan Karns, Robbie Ray, Sammy Solis and Jake Johansen are among the many talented arms working their way through the farm system.

Not many teams have that kind of depth at pitcher.

“Great arms,” Johnson said. “Pitching comes fast. They’re all going to be pitching in Double-A or up. When you get them to that level, I think you can come from AA to the big leagues just as easy as coming from AAA.”

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