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Nationals vs Tigers: Exhibiton GameThread - Tanner Roark vs Anibal Sanchez

The Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers play the final exhibition game of the spring this afternoon in Nationals Park in a 2:05 pm EDT matchup that is being shown live on MASN and and broadcast on the radio on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. and 1500 AM WFED.

Rob Carr

Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan were both supposed to get one more look in the final exhibition game of the spring this afternoon before Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams made a final decision on which pitcher would become the fifth starter in the Nats' rotation. Though they're still scheduled to pitch, Doug Fister's setback (right lat strain) will likely guarantee that both Roark and Jordan will be on the Opening Day roster.

With the 30-year-old right-hander reportedly headed for the 15-Day DL (pending an official announcement at some point this afternoon), the Nationals will likely be without their big rotation addition for the start of the 2014 campaign.

"Tanner [Roark] made a really good case, and he's made a really good case all spring, but then again, so has Taylor [Jordan]..." - Matt Williams on battle for the 5th spot

Just how long it takes Fister to get built up and ready to start in the majors is unclear as of this morning.

Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore reported on Friday that a "person familiar with the results" of the MRI on Fister told him that the issue which led to the right-hander exiting a start in a Minor League game on Thursday after just one inning and fifteen pitches, was "... a 'minor strain' in his right lat muscle." The plan, according to the WaPost report, is to have Fister rest for five days before he is re-evaluated. reporter Bill Ladson wrote on Twitter on Friday that both Roark and Jordan will make the 25-Man Roster, though no official announcement from the Nationals has been made yet:

Roark, 27, acquired along with RHP Ryan Tatusko from Texas in a July 2010 trade that sent infielder Cristian Guzman to the Rangers, made his MLB debut last August after six seasons and 667 2/3 IP in the minors.

The right-hander was (9-3) with a 3.15 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 20 walks (1.70 BB/9) and six home runs (0.51 HR/9) allowed in 33 games, 11 starts and 105 2/3 IP over which he collected 84 Ks (7.15 K/9) for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs before he was called up by the Nationals.

In 14 games (five of them starts) with the Nationals, Roark was (7-1), posting a 1.51 ERA and a 2.41 FIP with one HR (0.17 HR/9) and 11 walks (1.84 BB/9) allowed and 40 Ks (6.71 K/9) collected in 53 2/3 IP over which he was worth +1.4 fWAR.

Taylor Jordan, 25, started the 2013 season at High-A Potomac and worked his way up to Double-A Harrisburg and finally the majors, making his MLB debut on June 29th.

"Taylor certainly has taken the advice of [Steve McCatty] and the catchers and is using the sinker more and throwing his changeup and his breaking ball off of it.." - Matt Williams on Taylor Jordan's strong spring

Jordan was (2-1) with a 1.24 ERA, 2.46 FIP, six walks (1.49 BB/9) and one home run (0.25 HR/9) allowed in six starts and 36 1/3 IP in which he collected 29 Ks (7.18 K/9) for the P-Nats before he was promoted to Double-A where he was (7-0) with a 0.83 ERA, 2.39 FIP, nine walks (1.50 BB/9), no home runs allowed and 43 Ks (7.17 K/9) collected in nine games, eight starts and 54 IP before he was called up by the Nats.

In nine starts for the Nationals, the right-hander was (1-3) with a 3.66 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 11 walks (1.92 BB/9) and three home runs (0.52 HR/9) surrendered and 29 Ks (5.05 K/9) recorded in 51 2/3 IP. He finished his first run in the majors at +0.7 fWAR.

As they battled for a spot in the rotation this spring, both starters impressed new Nats' skipper Matt Williams.

"Tanner made a really good case," Williams told reporters last week, "and he's made a really good case all spring, but then again, so has Taylor."

Roark gave up 11 hits, five runs, all earned and three walks in four appearances, three starts and 13 2/3 IP, striking out 11 and holding opposing hitters to a .224 BAA. Jordan held the opposition to a .289 AVG in six appearances, four of them starts and 20 2/3 IP, giving up 24 hits and nine runs, all earned, while walking just two and striking out 20.

Williams told reporters late this spring that whichever starter lost out in the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation would likely go to Triple-A rather than pitch out of the bullpen in the majors. Fister's injury has delayed what was going to be a tough decision for the first-year skipper. Both right-handers will now get more time to make their respective cases starting this afternoon.