Tanner Roark threw a total of 198 ⅔ regular season innings as a starter for Washington in 2014 and 2 ⅔ postseason innings out of the pen.
That was more than he'd thrown in any calendar year as a professional thus far, but the Nationals' 28-year-old right-hander told reporters last week that when the Nats' season ended with their NLDS loss to the San Francisco Giants, he still had something left.
"Arm felt great," he said. "Still felt like I could keep going. I've never gone that many innings before in my career, but it was good to test myself physically and mentally to know that I could do that."
A year and a half after making his MLB debut, Roark is still not taking anything for granted, however, so he'll prepare for the 2015 campaign as he has every other season so far in his career.
"I don't think there [are] any guarantees," Roark said, after he went (15-10) with a 2.85 ERA, a 3.47 FIP, 39 walks (1.77 BB/9) and 138 Ks (6.25 K/9) in 31 starts for the NL East champs.
"I always think that somebody can come in there and prove themselves and do better than me."
Roark knows, he explained, that other pitchers in the organization will be battling for the same opportunity he earned over the last few seasons.
"That's what I've got to do myself," Roark said, "still prove each year that I can still be a starter and still pitch at the big league level. That's still my mentality. That always will be my mentality."
After a year and a half, however, the league has gotten a good look at him, built up scouting reports, so will he make any adjustments this winter, or work on doing anything differently?
"No," the Wilmington, Illinois-born starter said. "Just keep pumping strikes. Can't change. Obviously they're going to see video and what I like to do in certain counts and stuff like that, but I guess ultimately it comes down to just trusting my stuff and not worrying about what they have on me. Confidence I guess."
After making it through his first full season as a starter in the majors and throwing his first innings in a postseason atmosphere, Roark said he knows better now what it takes to compete at that level.
"It was definitely ramped up big time, playing in San Francisco and playing here [at Nationals Park]," he said. "It's a different feeling. The first time you come out on the mound, I came out of the bullpen last year, my first time it was a crazy experience to have 40,000-something people there and now it was even crazier with all these people, it was playoff time, so everybody knows what is on the line."
As for what, if anything, he's focused on improving?
"I would just say cut down the walks and don't try to make [perfect pitches]. Sometimes I try to make perfect pitches. If it's like a 3-2 count, I try to make my changeup be nasty. Just throw it. Trust my stuff a little bit more."