MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Roark's 5 shutout IP underscores solid spring

Roark's 5 shutout IP underscores solid spring

JUPITER, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark tossed five shutout innings in a 7-0 victory over the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium.

After four innings, Roark had thrown a lot of pitches, and it didn't help that he had problems throwing his slider. However, he was able to get out of some tough jams. In the fifth, for example, the Cardinals had runners on first and second with one out, but Roark managed to strike out Randal Grichuk and induce Brandon Moss to ground into a force play to end the threat.

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"You've got to make pitches," Roark said. "They're a good-hitting ballclub, and we had some great defense behind me, for sure. But all in all, just really have to bear down and get that guy at the plate when it's first and second, first and third [with] one out. You've really got to bear down and get that guy."

Roark is having a great spring, allowing a run in 14 innings. It's a given he will be back in the rotation for the first time since 2014. Remember, he went back to the bullpen after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer to a long-term deal. After Saturday's game against St. Louis, he didn't sound like a guy who is still fighting for a job.

"That's how I'm always going to come in, fighting for a job," Roark said. "I think I've told you guys before, when I was in the Minor Leagues and I'd come up to big league camp, I wanted to take someone else's job. I wanted to be that guy. I wanted to be in the rotation. I wanted to be in the bullpen, anyway, anyhow.

"So there are guys in the Minor Leagues now that would love to take my spot. I don't want that to happen. So I'm going to be on top of that and never let my guard down."

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