Roark, 33, made a total of 88 appearances in Nationals Park over that stretch, 67 of them starts, with a 3.72 ERA and .250/.309/.384 line against in 443 1⁄3 IP.
Monday night, the seven-year veteran, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent, getting a 2-year/$24M deal, talked about returning to his former home to face his former team in his 2020 debut.
“It feels — I got pretty excited last night coming — I mean, not the drive from Dulles, but coming into D.C. and seeing all the old sites I used to see and stuff,” Roark told reporters during a Zoom conference call.
“I’m excited. It’s going to be weird with no fans. It already has been weird with no fans, but I’m excited, and I know the mound just like the back of my hand, so I’ll be ready to go.”
Having received his first chance in the majors from the Nationals, Roark said he appreciated the opportunity he got with the organization.
“I got to play here and learn from great pitchers, guys who are still over there right now,” Roark explained.
“Bunch of good managers and pitching coaches, so I was grateful for that opportunity and I took it and ran with it. Still am.”
Roark faced his former team for the first time last June when he was with the Reds, giving up six hits and four earned runs in a 5-2 loss in Great American Ball Park.
“That was when I got all my jitters out,” he said when asked about facing the Nats again in his first start back in Nationals Park.
“The two guys that own me the most, Gerardo Parra and Matt Adams [were] both in the lineup and they both hit homers off me. They’re not here anymore so that’s a positive.”
His favorite memories from his time in D.C.? What sticks out when he thinks back on his time with the Nationals?
“I would say my complete game shutout was my first one,” Roark said, referring to an April 26, 2014 outing against the San Diego Padres in Nationals Park.
“And then my 15-strikeout game, against the Twins,” he added, going back to an April 23, 2016 outing in Washington in which he struck out 15 of 26 Minnesota batters in a seven-inning, 121-pitch outing.
“Everything was moving crazy later that day so I don’t know what was going on. But hey, 15 strikeouts, and then of course [Max] Scherzer had to up it and do 20 strikeouts a week later, so... what a jerk.”
Roark put together a solid start in his return to D.C. last night, holding the Nationals to a run on five hits and retiring the final seven batters he faced in what ended up being a 5-1 win for the Blue Jays.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 73 P, 47 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
How did it feel to be back out on the mound in Nationals Park?
“It was exciting just to be back out there in general,” Roark said, “just to pitch against ... not my own teammates. It’s a big change in things, which is good.
“It felt really good to just go out there and throw strikes and perform well, and got the bats behind me, and we won.”
Was it difficult facing a club with players he knows well and an organization that knows him well too?
“Spending five years in the NL East,” Roark said, “... and I’ve played with Asdrúbal Cabrera, and I’ve pitched against him, and now I’m pitching against him again. Kevin Long, their hitting coach, does a good job with scouting reports, and they know me very well, so the main things is executing your pitches and don’t overthink it.”
“These guys know a lot about me,” he added, “... so just keeping them off-balance, and keeping them guessing what I’m trying to throw.”