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Tanner Roark still a possibility to start for Nationals Sunday

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The decision won’t be cast into stone until Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson sees how taxed his bullpen is over the next two nights, but it appears likely that Tanner Roark will start for the Nationals on Sunday and Ross Ohlendorf will return to being a long reliever. 

“It’s still premature,” Johnson said. “But I did have a conversation with both of them that we’ll see how things go. It’s a possibility. I would like to give the kid an opportunity to start.”

The move would be two-fold for the Nationals. They want to give Roark an chance to prove that he could be in competition for a rotation or bullpen spot in 2014.

But they also feel that Ohlendorf might’ve tired a bit early in his previous two starts. While his results in the major leagues have been impressive this season, the Nationals wonder if he might be more suited to relieving.

“He adds and subtracts a lot on his fastball,” Johnson said Wednesday, a day after Ohlendorf, who was throwing 94 mph in the fifth inning, opened the sixth throwing in the mid-high 80s and allowed a home run to Christian Yelich. “I’m not sure if he was just taking a lot off the fastball or if he was just feeling a little tired.”

Ohlendorf said the change in velocity was by design.

“They were just kind of (batting practice) fastballs, which I had thrown earlier in the game, too,” Ohlendorf said. “I’ve thrown at different times this year… It’s helped me get quick contact.”

“I love pitchers who add and subtract with their fastball but you generally subtract away and add in,” Johnson said. “You don’t subtract from your fastball and throw it in. That’s not a good idea. A BP fastball thrown inside is not a good idea. I know he went to Princeton, but I may have to explain to him: that ain’t a good idea, at any point and time in the count.”

Regardless, making the switch will allow the Nationals an opportunity to see both, while also giving Roark a chance to continue his strong first impression as a major leaguer with a start.

The Nationals entered the 2013 season knowing one of their biggest issues was depth in their pitching staff, particularly starting pitching.

Aside from the prospects they expect to move to higher levels next season like Sammy Solis and A.J. Cole, with Taylor Jordan already cementing himself as a contender for the 2014 rotation, the Nationals hopeful Ross Detwiler will be back healthy, and Roark potentially adding himself into that mix, they’ll be in a much better position with regard to depth come spring of next year. 

 

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About the Author
Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.

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