Davey Johnson On The Secret Of Nationals' Starter Tanner Roark's Success

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

"He's got good stuff, no.1," Davey Johnson told reporters after the Washington Nationals' 4-0 win over the Atlanta Braves, "but he's got great command." He was talking about Tanner Roark, who improved to (7-0) as the Nats swept Tuesday's doubleheader.

"Well, how about Tanner Roark?" Davey Johnson asked reporters at the start of the post game press conference following Washington's 4-0 doubleheader sweeping win over the Atlanta Braves in Nationals Park. "Pretty good. When I hooked him after the seventh inning I said, 'Nice game,' and he said, 'You're sure? I'm through?' I said, 'Yeah. You're through.' I think the most pitches he's ever thrown before that was 78. But what a great game. I mean, he was totally in command pretty much the whole way. Looked [like] he was kind of sensing the finish line, because he was starting to crank to get it up there. But what a great effort."

"What a great game. I mean, he was totally in command pretty much the whole way." - Davey Johnson on Tanner Roark

In Roark's third start of the year, and his 12th appearance overall, the 26-year-old right-hander held the Braves scoreless over seven innings in which he threw 101 pitches and gave up just two hits and a walk on the way to earning his seventh win of the season. In 41 2/3 IP after making his MLB debut in August, Roark is now (7-0) with a 1.08 ERA, a 2.16 FIP, nine walks (1.94 BB/9) and 32 Ks (6.91 K/9).

"He's got good stuff, no.1," Davey Johnson said when asked to explain Roark's early success. "But he's got great command. He uses both sides on good hitters. Throws that ball in on [Freddie] Freeman. Sets up breaking balls. He's a pitcher. And he's done that ever since he's been here. We saw him in the spring. He was a little over-throwing. A little wild. Trying to impress." Roark went to Triple-A to start the season and had a 3.15 ERA, a 3.00 FIP, 20 walks (1.70 BB/9) and 84 Ks (7.15 K/9) in 33 games, 11 starts and 105 2/3 IP. Johnson heard good things before the Nationals called him up.

"He's got good stuff, no.1, but he's got great command. He uses both sides on good hitters." - Davey Johnson on Tanner Roark

"[Nats'  pitching coordinator] Spin [Williams] gave me good reports on him," Johnson told reporters. "Said he was a big league pitcher and I put a lot in to what he says. But ever since he's been here, whether it's out of the pen or starting, it's been quality. I can't say enough about location. Everybody's all wrapped up in the velocity, but he pitches 92-93-94 [mph], but he's got a good curve ball. Good slider. And the location is outstanding." The Nats' 70-year-old skipper said he hasn't really been surprised that Roark's succeeded thus far.

"It's been impressive, but it doesn't take long when you see a guy who knows how to pitch," Johnson said. "He made quality pitches all night to good hitters. I don't think anything was hardly hit hard. Left a ball up to, I think, [Dan] Uggla early, got a base hit, but I was comparing him with Taylor Jordan, and telling Cat, 'Taylor Jordan's got the more, maybe, harder fastball, good changeup, scouts will like him over Tanner,' but I said, 'I've got to put Tanner ahead of him because of great command. And his poise out there is unbelievable. And he competes.'"

Johnson won't be in Spring Training as the manager next year, so he won't be in charge of deciding who does and doesn't make the Opening Day roster. Both Jordan and Roark have, however, put themselves in a good position to compete for spots in the rotation. But though Jordan's done for the year, Roark and the Nats are doing all they can to keep this season and the run the Nats have been on going as long as possible.

The doubleheader sweep Tuesday and the Cincinnati Reds' win over the Houston Astros left the Nats 81-70 on the year, 4.5 games behind in the race for the second wild card spot with 11 games left.

"There's so much of the season left," Johnson said, "Cincy's got Pittsburgh, six games. We've got our pretty tough schedule after the [Miami] Marlins come in. I said before, we need to win about 90 games. If we win 90 games I think we've got a dang good shot of getting in there."

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