Tanner Roark has had a backer on the Washington Nationals' coaching staff from before a pitch was thrown this Spring.
Mike Maddux, the Nationals' new pitching coach, talked this winter about getting the 29-year-old right-hander back in the rotation after a lost year in the Nats' bullpen when the signing of Max Scherzer pushed Roark into a relief role.
"You've got to admire a guy like him, holy cow," Maddux told reporters.
"I mean, talk about the typical blue collar layman that goes out and wins fifteen ballgames and makes a little notch in his belt for him. That's pretty good. Easy to root for, and I'm rooting for him big time."
Roark's 15-win season came in 2014, after the former Rangers' '08 25th Round pick, acquired in a July 2010 trade with Texas, made his major league debut in 2013, going (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 14 games, five starts and 53 ⅔ innings, over which he was worth 1.4 fWAR.
He followed that up with a (15-10), 3.1 fWAR campaign in 2014 in which he put up a 2.85 ERA, a 3.47 FIP, 39 walks (1.77 BB/9) and 138 Ks (6.25 K/9) in 198 ⅔ IP.
Working out of the bullpen last season, Roark posted a 4.38 ERA, a 4.70 FIP, 26 walks (2.11 BB/9), 70 Ks (5.68 K/9) in 111 innings, finishing the year at -0.2 fWAR.
In four games this Spring before tonight, three of them starts, Roark gave up 14 hits, three walks and just one earned run in 14 innings, over which he struck out 13 and held opposing hitters to a .255 AVG.
In his final tune-up for the regular season tonight, Roark worked around a one-out by Joe Mauer for a quick, scoreless, 10-pitch first.
Roark struck two batters out in a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 second. 21 pitches total.
Former Nats' catcher Kurt Suzuki lined a leadoff single to left in the Twins' third, and he took third base on a fly to left by Brian Dozier that bounced off Jayson Werth's glove at the fence and got stuck in the wall in front of the visitor's pen.
Both runners were stranded however, as Roark got Miguel Sano swinging to end a 23-pitch frame at 44 total.
Trevor Plouffe doubled to left off Roark in the top of the fourth, and scored on a single to right by Eddie Rosario, 3-1.
Byung Ho Park single to left in the next at bat, sending Rosario around to third, and Park took second on the throw in by Werth. Both runners scored on a double to right by Twins' shortstop Eduardo Escobar. 3-3 after three and a half.
Roark was up to 69 pitches after a 25-pitch fourth.
• Tanner Roark's Line: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 69 P, 44 S, 6/2 GO/FO.
• Dusty Baker talked a week or so back about wanting to come out of Spring Training with one or two players swinging hot bats. He was asked before today's game which players looked good as Grapefruit League action wrapped up?
"Well, probably the guys that come to mind: Michael, Michael Taylor, he's hot," Baker said. "Ben Revere is hot. And I'll tell you, who's really hot is [Ryan Zimmerman]. That was a pleasure to see him, especially in that RBI spot.
"Big Ramos is swinging the bat well.
"Bryce [Harper] is swinging the bat well for somebody else. If he had a different name, you'd be saying he's hot, but he's still not quite Bryce yet. But that's fine. I'll take the Bryce that's here, because you know he's going to get hot. Super hot."
"[Anthony] Rendon is swinging it too, big time. So, that should get it done."
• Revere kept swinging a hot bat with a leadoff triple into the right field corner in his first at bat against Twins' starter Phil Hughes.
Rendon started behind 1-2 and worked the count full before walking to put two runners on in front of Bryce Harper, and the "Bryce that's here" hit a sac fly to right to make it 1-0 Nats early.
Zimmerman hit an opposite field double to right in the next at bat, scoring Rendon from first for a 2-0 lead after one.
• The Nationals put together a solid Grapefruit League campaign, finishing up 18-4 with a +81 run differential, a 9-1 record in their last ten games and a six-game winning streak. Of course, all that doesn't matter much.
It's regular season games that count. Aside from the stats, Baker was asked today what impressed him about Spring Training?
"Probably attitude, I think," Baker told reporters.
"We've got a great attitude on this time and that's big. And attitudes have been big in my life and it was big in my dad's life. He even cut me three times from his Little League team because he said I had a bad attitude.
"And so that kind of set the stage for me as far as the importance of attitude.
"We've got to get an air of attitude and an air of confidence about us that we can build on through the course of the season, because it's not always going to be easy.
"There are going to be some tough times that you're going to have to have positive thoughts and a positive attitude to get you through those times."
• Two plays early, a fly to left in the first off Joe Mauer's bat, and a fly to left field in the third by Brian Dozier, tested Jayson Werth early. He came up empty on each play.
Mauer doubled off the left field wall when Werth leapt at the fence and came up empty on a catchable ball.
Dozier hit a fly that got stuck in the fence when Werth left at the bullpen wall and had it bounce off his glove and fall between the wall and the fencing that allows relievers to see the field of play.
Nationals Park has been open since 2008. Never seen that before. Ruled a ground-rule double.
• Ben Revere and Anthony Rendon hit back-to-back doubles to start the Nationals' third. Revere scored on Rendon's, 3-0.
• Felipe Rivero came on in the fifth, with the score tied at 3-3, and popped Joe Mauer up. Baker went to the bullpen again for Shawn Kelley, got two quick outs to end the frame. Eighth inning tandem?
• Yusmeiro Petit got the call in the sixth inning and worked around a leadoff single for a scoreless frame, striking Kurt Suzuki out with a nasty slider for out no.3.
• Matt Belisle dropped a nasty 2-2 bender on Miguel Sano to get a swinging K for out no.3 of a scoreless seventh.
• Blake Treinen had the sinker and slider working in a scoreless eighth. EIght pitches, one K, two groundouts, two broken bats.
• Stephen Drew sent Scott Sizemore first-to-third with a one-out double in the Nationals' eighth, and Trea Turner hit a sac fly to right that wasn't deep, but got the job done when the Twins' catcher dropped the throw in. 4-3 Nationals.
• Jonathan Papelbon came on in a save situation and retired the Twins in order. Ballgame. 4-3 Nats.