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Washington Nationals’ Tanner Roark set to start for Team U.S.A tonight in the WBC

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Nationals’ starter Tanner Roark gets his WBC start for the United States in a win-or-go-home matchup with Japan in LA’s Dodger Stadium tonight.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic-USA  at Dominican Republic Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker expressed concern about the lack of time at the plate and on the mound for Daniel Murphy and Tanner Roark, respectively, for Team U.S.A. in the World Baseball Classic.

Baker told reporters, including MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that he worried the relative inactivity could potentially set both Murphy and Roark back in their preparation for the 2017 campaign.

Murphy has played in just two games heading into tonight’s semi-final, and Roark has pitched just once in relief in two weeks, though he’s scheduled to start against Japan tonight in LA.

“[Murphy] didn’t have his stroke together when he left,” Baker explained. “Can’t get it sitting, and you can’t get it really taking BP.”

As for Roark, he made two appearances and threw seven innings with the Nationals in Grapefruit League before departing for the WBC, where he’s thrown an 1 13 thus far, giving up three hits, two walks and three earned runs in the United States’ loss to the Dominican Republic in the first round of play.

Baker spoke to both players and Team U.S.A. manager Jim Leyland about how Murphy and Roark would be used going forward.

Roark told reporters in a pre-start press conference that he’s been getting his work in as he waited for another opportunity.

“Everything feels great, body feels great,” Roark said. “Yeah, it's been a little bit since I've been in there facing live hitters, but the key is to pitch to my strength, and that is throw strikes and get outs. I mean, as a starter, that's what you're supposed to do. So I'm going to go out there and give it my all for as long as I can until they take me out.”

Roark said he’s stayed sharp by throwing multiple bullpens over the last week-plus and watching opposing hitters as much as he can.

“Just trying to stay within myself and since I haven't been out there on the mound so much and facing hitters,” he explained, “... just trying to stay mentally focused on the game, even though I'm not in there.

“Just watching how the hitters react, and just watching and trying to learn as much as I can from all these guys.”

Roark, who’s made two postseason appearances, including one start in last October’s NLDS matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers, was asked if tonight’s start was the biggest of his career?

“So far, yes, I'd say so, with the single-elimination and everything. But go out there and leave it all out on the field.”

“It's definitely a big game for myself and for the rest of the guys in the clubhouse,” he added.

“So we're just going to go out there and do our thing, play together, have fun, and give it our all.”