Doug Fister was placed on the 15-Day DL this afternoon, retroactive to March 23rd. Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams explained today that the 30-year-old right-hander would rest for five days and then start trying to build his arm strength back up.
With the announcement on Fister, the Nats finalized their 2014 Opening Day 25-Man Roster.
Tanner Roark, 27, and Taylor Jordan, 25, were battling for the fifth spot in the Nats' rotation all spring, but with Fister going on the DL, both right-handers made the Opening Day roster, and Roark is lined up to start the home opener next Friday night against the Atlanta Braves.
"Tanner will go four, he'll go Opening Day here," Williams told reporters today. "We'll follow him with Stephen [Strasburg on Saturday]. Taylor [Jordan] will pitch, I believe it's on the [April 6th]."
Tanner Roark on what his hometown will do when he starts Nats home opener: 'I'm sure there will be a projector screen out in the cul de sac'— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) March 29, 2014
In order to get Jordan ready for his first start of the 2014 campaign, Williams explained that he may go to Florida to start in a minor league game between now and next weekend to keep him on schedule.
"I think that moving forward, we've got to get [Jordan] ready for the sixth," he said. "So we'll look at that. He'll plan on doing the same kind of schedule that Doug [Fister] was going to do, where he'll go and pitch. He'll be able to go down and pitch, I think it's on the 1st, and then be on his own rotation."
As much as the Nationals would like to have Fister available for the start of the season, Williams said it was nice to be able to tell both Roark and Jordan that they made the Opening Day roster.
"They're both excited," he said. "They're both eager. I think they proved themselves in spring. They really pitched well. We created this competition between the two of them and they both responded. So those are very good signs. And I know they're both excited. So they're both eager to get out there and get their first one done for this year and move from there."
Roark allowed 11 hits, five earned runs and three walks in four outings, three of them starts, and 13 2/3 IP in Grapefruit League action, striking out 11 batters and holding opposing hitters to a .224 BAA.
Jordan made six appearances, four of them starts this spring, giving up 24 hits and nine runs, all earned, while walking two batters and striking out 20 in 20 2/3 IP over which he held the opposition to a .289 AVG.
It would have been a tough decision for the Nats' skipper, his coaches and everyone who was going to have a part in choosing either Roark or Jordan for the rotation since Williams told reporters last week that whoever lost out in the fight for the fifth spot would be headed for Triple-A Syracuse rather than the bullpen.
"We had internal conversations about it," Williams said, "but in a perfect world, they both have proven themselves worthy of that spot. Now, with the adjustments that we're going to have to make, they're both there. Which is a good thing. So it's not one over the other. They both have done really well and proven that they can both handle it. And we're in the situation that we're in and they're both going to pitch and that's good for our team, because they've both pitched really well."
Roark was scheduled to start this afternoon's exhibition game with the Detroit Tigers, but it was rained out. Williams talked before the game about what they would do with Roark if he didn't get to make a final spring start, explaining that he would "throw a heavy bullpen."
"The good thing we have here is we've got covered mounds [in the bullpen] out there," he said. "So we don't run into an issue with that. So if we have to have a heavy bullpen if the rain comes in or continues to fall and we don't get this game in, we'll make sure he gets his ups and make sure he runs through a simulated type game in the bullpen, but that's all we can do."
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As the fans who showed up before the game was canceled filed out of Nationals Park, Roark was down in the right field bullpen getting his work in. He'll face the Atlanta Braves next Friday after the season-opening series in New York.
Roark faced the Nats' NL East rivals three times in his rookie campaign last summer, throwing 13 scoreless innings against the eventual division winners. Williams said today that if Roark continued to do what he did on the mound last season, he'll continue to have success.
"If he makes his pitches, then he's effective," the Nats' skipper said. "We certainly hope he does that. But, the Braves have a fantastic team and it's tough for anybody in that regard when they face that team. So, he just needs to make sure that he makes his pitches and goes about it the way he wants to go about it."
Stephen Strasburg, who will start on Monday in the season opener with the New York Mets, talked to reporters today about the impending start and was asked what he thought about both Roark and Jordan making the rotation.
"Definitely very different how they go about their business," Strasburg said, "but they're both extremely talented and I think they both worked really hard to get to this point. And they were both kind of the guys who were the odd man out always going up through the minors and stuff and it's amazing to see, especially Taylor."
Jordan, an '09 9th Round out Brevard Community College in Florida, crossed paths with Strasburg early in both of their careers in the organization.
"I remember meeting him when I first signed," Strasburg said. "He was one of the first guys I met and we're out there doing PFP and everything and he comes up to me, he's like, 'I thought you were left-handed?' So, he's an interesting guy but they're both great pitchers and like I said, it's awesome to see Taylor get to this point in his career and I'm excited to see what he has."
The Nationals might have to make the tough decision they avoided this weekend when/if Doug Fister is back and ready to join the rotation, but until then, Jordan and Roark fill out the rotation behind Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.