MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

New perspective has Roark pleased with role

Wiser than in years past, versatile righty puts Nats' goals ahead of personal stats

New perspective has Roark pleased with role

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Tanner Roark thrived as a member of the Nationals' rotation last year, going 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts.

After the season, the club added an ace to its rotation, signing right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract. The deal had a ripple effect for Roark, who would move from the rotation to the bullpen.

Did the 28-year-old Roark complain about returning to the role he filled during part of his rookie season in 2013? No -- in fact, he has excelled as a reliever. Roark has done everything asked of him by manager Matt Williams, from serving as a long reliever to closing a game.

"You can take it one of two ways -- it could be a demotion or an opportunity," Williams said. "I think he used it as an opportunity. He is willing to do whatever he can to help the team win. That says a lot about his character."

As teammate Drew Storen pointed out, Roark sees the bigger picture. He has the right mind-set and is happy to be in the big leagues.

Roark decided not to complain about his new role because he remembered the attitude he had in 2012, when he lost 17 games for Triple-A Syracuse.

That year, Roark was blaming everybody but himself. He would get upset over the littlest things. If there were a couple of bloop hits, for example, Roark would get frazzled. It took several people, from assistant general manager Doug Harris to then-manager Tony Beasley, to change Roark's attitude.

Roark's sliding catch

This year, the right-hander decided to embrace his role as a reliever.

"You can't dwell on it; I have no control over it," Roark said. "That's what I was going through when I had that bad spell in 2012 with the mental part of the game. It has changed drastically. There is no sense in getting mad about it. It's already a done deal. … All you have to do is do your job. You are up here, you are competing and you are playing the greatest sport in the world. I play with the greatest teammates ever. There isn't much to complain about."

Roark's most memorable game this year came on Tuesday against the Marlins. After pitching three days in a row, Storen had the day off, so Williams decided to let Roark finish the game with Washington leading, 6-4.

After Dee Gordon singled with one out, Roark bore down and was able to get Martin Prado to pop up to shortstop Ian Desmond.

Then came slugging superstar Giancarlo Stanton, who gives the Nats substantial trouble. Stanton was ahead in the count, 3-0, but Roark struck him out swinging to end the game.

"I was sitting down in the bullpen; I was way more nervous watching him than I ever was when I'm out there," Storen said. "'This is unbelievable.' It was a lot of fun. I was so pumped for him, and it was great to see."

Storen is impressed by how Roark has made the transition from starter to reliever.

"You can see he is not a guy that feels sorry for himself," Storen said. "He thrives no matter what the situation is. He is a gamer; he is a great teammate. He has done well no matter what's asked of him. That's real impressive."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He can also be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.