Apr 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark (57) throws against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth at Nationals Park. The St. Louis Cardinals won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Nationals should have Casey Janssen back soon, which should give the team stability in the eighth and ninth innings for the first time this year. With Aaron Barrett and Matt Grace available to work the seventh inning in most games, Cole could slide into Roark’s spot as the long reliever.
Right now, it just makes the most sense to use Tanner Roark in Doug Fister’s spot in the rotation if they need someone to make a spot start. Roark already has all the experience the Nationals could want. He’s been through the ordeal of facing Major League hitters regularly and he’s proven that he can be a more-than-serviceable starter if needed. Plus, giving Roark the job also lets him know that he’s a valued member of the team and not just a piece that can be cast into the bullpen and forgotten.
This certainly isn’t a knock against A.J. Cole by any means. He’s going to be an enormous part of the Nationals plans going forward, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding guys like Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister heading into the offseason. But for right now, the best option for Cole is to get a little bit of experience in the bullpen until Fister and Janssen are able to rejoin the team, then return to triple-A Syracuse to get more playing time as a starter there before (hopefully) making his debut as a regular in 2016.
So, while it may require that the Nationals stretch out Tanner Roark to get him ready to start, he’s clearly the best option to fill in for Doug Fister right now.