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Leftovers: Tanner Roark begins quest to lock down rotation spot

The morning after every Washington Nationals game this season we'll revisit the previous day's buffet, over-analyzing a morsel of information, nugget from the box score, or tasty treat from the post-game quotes.

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Repeat after me: It's one start in Spring Training.

Regardless, it was an important one for Tanner Roark, who bounced back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation last season, never really settling into any role.

"I told you guys once before that I wanted to start and I'm telling you guys again that I want to start." -Tanner Roark

It was just two innings in the Nats' first Grapefruit League matchup, but it was successful two innings. He limited the Tampa Bay Rays to one hit and one walk, striking out three in his second inning of work. He threw 33 pitches total, 21 of which for strikes.

"I thought that I was able to locate the ball pretty well with my fastball, curveball was 'eh,' slider felt really good, felt tight, sharp, changeup felt good," Roark said.

It's critically important to the Nats' pennant hopes that Roark return to -- or at least provide a reasonable facsimile of -- his successful 2014 campaign, when he went 15-10 out of the fifth slot in the rotation with a 2.85 ERA (3.47 FIP), 1.092 WHIP, 1.8 BB/9 and 6.3 K/9.

The team decided against going to the free agent market, or trade route, to replace Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister in the starting rotation. Rather, they will entrust Roark and Joe Ross with the task, unless of course they think 39-year-old Bronson Arroyo can usurp one of the incumbents.

After Arroyo, the Nats' MLB depth at starter includes a phenom they don't want to rush (Lucas Giolito), a somewhat-fading prospect (A.J. Cole) and a 4-A tweener (Taylor Jordan).

Therefore, they really have to hope a guy that has a 15-win season on his resume can hold down a spot in the rotation -- oh, and a guy that had never pitched above Double-A at the start of last season (Ross) can hold his as well.

Ross gave up two runs -- none earned -- on three hits and a walk, striking out one in two innings.

For his part, Roark wants to make sure everyone knows where he stands. "I told you guys once before that I wanted to start and I'm telling you guys again that I want to start," Roark said after his performance.

I think everyone wants him to start. If he's not by the end of Spring Training, something's gone fairly wrong.