[ed. note - "This was originally written, and is still part of today's post game report, check back for updated version, but it got a little out of control, so we made it into a separate post as well."]
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, in an recent MLB Network Radio interview, described the trade that brought Tanner Roark to the Washington Nationals' organization in July of 2010 as a "low-level" trade that has paid big dividends.
Roark, a 2008 25th Round pick out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a school that has produced 80 major league players, Scott Spiezio among them, was acquired along with right-hander Ryan Tatusko (currently at Triple-A Syracuse) in a deal that sent Cristian Guzman to the Texas Rangers.
Roark turned a corner in 2012, in his fifth pro season and second year with the Nationals, and after going (9-3) with a 3.15 ERA, a 3.01 FIP, 20 walks (1.84 BB/9) and 84 Ks (7.15 K/9) with the Nats' top affiliate at the start of the 2013 campaign, the then-26-year-old right-hander was called up to make his major league debut.
In his 14 appearances with the Nationals, five of them starts, Roark was (7-1) with a 1.51 ERA, a 2.41 FIP, 11 walks (1.84 BB/9) and 40 Ks (6.71 K/9) in 53 2/3 IP putting himself in the discussion for the fifth spot in the rotation in 2014 with his performance.
• Here's the Nationals' lineup for today's game:
"Going into Spring Training we kind of had him penciled in as one of the guys who was going to help us this year probably out of Spring Training," Rizzo said, "and then when [Doug Fister] went down early in Spring Training, we felt that we'd have two young players, Taylor Jordan and Tanner in the rotation until Doug got healthy."
Through nine starts as part of the Nationals' rotation this season, Roark is (3-3) with a 3.42 ERA, a 3.68 FIP, 15 walks (2.44 BB/9) and 42 Ks (6.83 K/9) in 55 1/3 IP. At home in the nation's capital, after suffering his first loss in D.C. the last time out, he's (5-1) with a 0.78 ERA, a 2.53 FIP, 14 walks and 33 Ks in 11 games, five starts and 46 IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a .181/.246/.218 line.
"Tanner Roark is an extremely good story for scouting and player development," Rizzo explained. "Our professional scouts, Jay Robertson in particular, and our scouting department identified him in a trade that we made a while back. It was a low-level trade with Cristian Guzman and got ourselves two good arms that we really liked and player development has really allowed this kid to step to the next level. He's a very confident pitcher on the mound. He's got four good pitches. He's not a soft-tossing, command-only guy. He can run it up to 94-95 if he has to. He pitches at 90-92, 93 with his sinker, but his command has really separated him from the pack in our organization and he's a guy that can really pitch to four quadrants of the plate with four pitches and on any given day can really go out there and handcuff some good-hitting ballclubs."
"He's been a great story for us and a really good scouting and player development story in general."
In an MLB Network Radio interview this morning, first-year Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked about what has allowed Roark to succeed thus far in his major league career.
"Just changing speeds," Williams said. "He's got a really good curveball. It's slower than most, but he throws it for strikes when he wants to, he throws it for balls when he wants to, which is probably the key to pitching. His changeup is effective and that changeup and the fastball in to left handers has really been effective for him so it gets them off of his sinker or his runner away. And he just works. He just works fast and throws strikes and keeps us in games, and that's all we can ask of him."
Roark makes his tenth start of the season this afternoon in the series opener with the Miami Marlins, against whom he is (1-0) with a 1.76 ERA, four walks and 11 Ks in four games, two starts and 15 1/3 IP, over which he's held Marlins' hitters to a .214/.267/.286 line.