Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network is reporting that Washington Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark will play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic
Earlier this week, Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer pulled out of the World Baseball Classic for Team USA because of a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger. Today, Team USA has reportedly added another Washington Nationals pitcher to the roster. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network reports that Tanner Roark is that pitcher:
With Roark reportedly going to the WBC that makes three Washington Nationals that will be participating in the tournament that begins in March. Daniel Murphy will play for the United States and Oliver Perez will pitch for Mexico.
In his return to the rotation in 2016, Roark had a strong season. The 30-year-old right-hander went 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA over 210 inning in 34 games (33 starts) and finished tenth in the National League Cy Young voting. During the second half of the year, he had a 2.60 ERA over his final 15 starts.
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Due to the injury to Stephen Strasburg in September, Roark was the Game 2 starter in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. While he only went 4.1 innings in that start, he was able to hold the Dodgers to two runs in an eventual Nats win.
So, what makes Roark a good fit for the Team USA roster? For me, it’s his ability to be both a starter and reliever. When Scherzer signed with the Nats before the 2015 season, Roark went to the bullpen and didn’t have a set role throughout the season. He even got a save in 2015.
With group play being only three games, could Team USA’s manager, Jim Leyland, decide to use Roark in a long man role in one of those games against Colombia, the Dominican Republic, or Canada? In 38 games as a reliever in his career, Roark has a 2.80 ERA (according to Baseball Reference).
Last season, Roark made one relief appearance before the All-Star Break against the New York Mets (July 10). In that game, he didn’t give up a hit and struck out two over 2.1 innings.
While this may seem as a surprise decision to some, Roark has definitely earned this honor after the good 2016 season he had for the Washington Nationals. Whether it’s as a starter or reliever, it should be fun to watch Roark pitch in the World Baseball Classic, even though Scherzer won’t be there.