Weather permitting, Tanner Roark will take the mound this afternoon in Wrigley Field and try to help keep the Washington Nationals’ season alive in Game 4 of the NLDS. In his manager’s opinion, Roark is the right starter for the job, and the kind of guy you’d want by your side ... in an alley or fight? Wait, what?
“Well, I mean, Tanner, you know, is a guy that you would like on your side if you're in an alley and you're in a fight, because you know Tanner, he has that warrior mentality,” he explained.
“He doesn't make any excuses or alibis. He just goes out and pitches, and this guy has not had an easy road, you know, from the beginning to get here.”
“And so you know, we feel very comfortable with Tanner on the mound,” the Nats’ skipper continued, “because you know he's going to fight tooth and nails and do everything he can to win the ballgame for you.”
Roark, 31, struggled at the start this season, posting a 5.27 ERA, a 4.44 FIP, 3.22 BB/9, 7.15 K/9, and a .275/.343/.417 line against in 100 2⁄3 IP, then bounced back with a 3.90 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 3.12 BB/9, 9.60 K/9, and a .222/.292/.397 line against in 80 2⁄3 innings in the second half.
Baker reiterated his belief on Monday that Roark’s participation in the World Baseball Classic this Spring played a part in the right-hander’s rough start.
“Tanner didn't have many innings coming out of Spring Training,” Baker said, “and that kind of got him behind the 8-ball, so to speak, because you know, he didn't have the innings.
“He was with the WBC and he didn't pitch very much, and so things get in your head when you're used to getting guys out and all of a sudden you're not getting them out.
“So it's a new season now for Tanner, brand-new season, and this is what people are going to remember you by.
“I think they will really be impressed by Tanner's performance.”
Roark, a 2008 Texas Rangers’ 25th Round pick, did fight his way to where he is today, but he said late this season that he didn’t think his time with Team USA in the WBC played a role in his first-half issues.
“I use that for fuel for the fire,” Roark said in mid-September, “so people that doubt me and people that [say], ‘Oh, he started too early this year with the World Baseball Classic,’ and all that stuff, ‘He’s getting tired.’ I just try to use that as fire and prove everybody wrong that doubts me.”
His catcher isn’t one of the doubters. Matt Wieters told reporters on Monday that he and his teammates were confident in the right-hander going into today’s game.
“We’ve got all the confidence in the world in Tanner,” Wieters said. “We’ve thrown the ball great, now we have to [start] scoring some runs and finding some holes.”
Roark, a Wilmington, Illinois native, talked last night, about getting an opportunity to pitch in a Postseason game against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.
“It's pretty surreal to pitch in Wrigley,” Roark said, “and just the history that they have here and everything. It's very exciting and I'm anxious to get out there.”
He also said that he actually thinks the experience of the one start he did make in the WBC could actually help him out if they play this afternoon.
“Pitching the WBC against Japan was, I mean, pretty crazy,” Roark said. “Even pitching in Miami, it was the loudest I had heard any stadium ever. I think the experience will help out, because I know the fans here get rowdy and stuff like that. So I know that experience will help me calm my nerves and just relax out there.”
“I just think the atmosphere around here is amazing and to pitch here at Wrigley, and to hear the fans; I know they are going to be crazy, like I said, and just do what I do best, and try to keep them quiet.”