Fifteen-game winner will remain on starter track despite Scherzer acquisition
By Jamal Collier
VIERA, Fla. -- Tanner Roark was the presumed odd man out of the Nationals' starting rotation once the team acquired Max Scherzer during the offseason.
Roark's role with the team in 2015 is unclear, but for now at least, the Nats have told him to continue to prepare as a starter, and he will be one of the team's starting pitchers this spring.
Roark followed up an impressive rookie campaign with an outstanding year in the rotation in 2014. He made 31 starts, won 15 games and finished with a 2.85 ERA.
Despite the success in his first two seasons, Roark is unlikely to displace one of the Nationals' five current starters, each of whom come with decorated pedigrees. Keeping Roark prepared to start makes sense in the case of an injury to one of those starters, or on the off-chance someone is traded before the season begins.
Roark said he is prepared to take a bullpen role if that's what is necessary, but for now will just do what he is told.
"He's phenomenal, it doesn't change whether it's starting, relieving, where he pitches in that rotation," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "When I give him the ball and it's his day to pitch, he's excited and ready to pitch and compete. I can't ask for any more than that."
Normally, former starters bumped to the bullpen fit into the role as the long reliever. However, Williams said that may not necessarily be the case. Roark could factor in as one of the team's late-innings relievers as well, because he has a lot of strengths that fit well to a reliever.
Roark has shown he can increase his velocity from 90-93 mph to 92-95 in a short outing. He throws strikes, changes speeds, holds baserunners and fields his position well.
"More important to me that they trust me and I trust them." Roark said. "It boosts your confidence sky high."
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.