Winless in his last four starts before Wednesday night’s (and 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA and 4.98 BB/9 in 21 2⁄3 IP over that stretch), Tanner Roark told reporters in Pittsburgh last week, (after giving up eight hits, four walks and seven earned runs in five innings), that he felt he was being tested.
“The game is testing me right now,” Roark said, “and I just got to fight back and not give in and continue to work hard and keep doing my thing.”
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this morning, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo offered his thoughts on Roark’s recent struggles.
”Tanner is a special case scenario for me this year,” Rizzo explained. “He ramped it up much, much earlier than anyone else in our rotation and on our staff. He was a WBC guy, those guys were revving at 100% on March 7th, I think. He’s about a month ahead of everybody else. He may have come into a little dead arm scenario at this point in the season where others may not have just because he did start earlier.”
Roark was used sparingly in the World Baseball Classic too, making a relief appearance on March 11th then waiting until March 21st before his one WBC start, which saw him throw four scoreless against Japan in Team USA’s semi-final matchup. He was going up against some of the top talent in the world early in the Spring.
“You’re hitting the gas pedal in the middle of March when guys are just trying to [get] touch, feel, get ready for the season and I think I have seen some differences there,” Rizzo said.
“I feel Tanner is going to right the ship,” he continued. “He’s a command and control guy. That two-seam front hip comeback fastball is his bread and butter and he’s working on that to have that swing-back against lefties and that ball that comes in under their hands against righties. He’s healthy, he’s a bulldog, he’s going pound the strike zone, and that’s all you can ask of him and he’s going to be fine.
“I’m not worried about Tanner, as long as he tells me that he feels good, then I feel good.”
Roark looked good, or better at least, against the Seattle Mariners tonight, giving up one earned run early, but holding the visiting American League team to just that run through seven innings as he struck out eight and induced nine ground ball outs from the 28 batters he faced.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 102 P, 67 S, 9/0 GO/FO.
Roark’s 102 pitches overall were more efficient than his last few starts as well, which saw him throw 125 in six innings; 100 in six; 110 in 4 2⁄3 and 114 in five.
“He got through the early innings without a very high pitch count,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the Nationals’ 5-1 win in D.C., “because that’s what’s been plaguing him the last three or four starts. He was sharper today, and had a real good slider, had good command of his fastball.”
MLB.com’s Andrew Simon noted before Roark’s latest outing that he’s struggled to put hitters away in two-strike counts.
Tanner Roark, starting tonight, has thrown the 4th-most 2-strike pitches in MLB. He has the lowest rate of turning those pitches into outs. pic.twitter.com/yjjX7z0EaG— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) May 24, 2017
Baker said not pressing in those situations is important.
“You’ve just got to make pitches,” Baker explained. “When you have them set up for a certain pitch, you have to execute it, and sometimes when you’re trying too hard to execute it, you cease being natural and throwing the ball where you want to throw it. So tonight was more like Tanner.”
• We talked about Roark’s start, MAT + more on Nats Nightly:
#Nats Nightly w/ @DNicholsSR at 10:00 PM on the #Nationals' 5-1 win over the #Mariners; Roark vs the Ms, MAT + more: https://t.co/7a1xmSKsc4— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) May 25, 2017