Washington Nationals Editorial: Matt Williams Makes Right Call With Tanner Roark In Rotation


It was a decision that Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams did not have to make for a while after Doug Fister injured his forearm on May 14. Which pitcher was going to slide in the rotation in place of Fister? Was it going to be the rookie, A.J. Cole, or the veteran in Tanner Roark who won 15 games last year?

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Before Williams made his decision, our own Brandon Conner thought that Roark should be the guy because of his major league experience and allows him to play a role of extreme value on this team. Well, before Friday’s 2-1 win against the Phillies, Williams made the decision to go with Roark against the Cubs at Wrigley Field:

During his meeting with the media, Williams did not give a timetable on when Fister would return. This could mean that Roark is in the rotation for the foreseeable future and it is a good thing for both him and A.J. Cole.

With the Nationals activating Casey Janssen off the disabled list yesterday, they have a reliever that can pitch the ninth inning if Drew Storen needs a day or in any late game situation. As a reliever, Roark was filling any need the Nats had for him, but they haven’t had a need for him over the last few games.

At first, I thought that with the Roark decision, A.J. Cole would lose his chance to develop as a starter. Cole will now be the long man due to Sammy Solis going on the 15-day DL because of sholder inflammation. In a way, Cole will still be getting work when a starter is having an off day and he can still provide some value to the big league club.

While Cole struggled as a starter against the Braves on April 28, he did look more relaxed when he came out of the bullpen in the San Diego series. On May 15, he picked up his first major league save relieving Jordan Zimmermann. He went three innings, gave up one hit, and striking out one. Plus, since Roark is only slated to go to 70 pitches, you never know whether or not Cole will be needed in a big relief situation during that game in case of a crooked inning.

So far, the Nationals rotation has been good this season as their starters ERA of 3.96 is 12th in baseball, but it could be better. By adding a 15-win pitcher from a year ago into the mix, the rotation should continue to be a major strength of this team. In case you were wondering, Roark made two starts against Chicago last year and was 0-2 with a 5.54 ERA.

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