When Max Scherzer signed the dotted line Wednesday afternoon, joining the Nationals on a seven-year, $210 million contract, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that right-hander Tanner Roark would be moved to the bullpen.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, manager Matt Williams said that has not yet been determined. Williams said he is planning to have all six of his starters — last year’s rotation, plus Scherzer — enter spring training as starters. With the injuries that tend to occur over the course of a 162-game season, he wants to make sure that he has multiple options at his disposal.
“What our plan is right now is to make sure that everybody’s training to be a starter,” Williams said after Scherzer’s introductory press conference at Nationals Park. “Because you just don’t know. So we’ll go into spring training in that mode. Again, during spring training you need multiple starters anyways. You need more than five, for sure. It’ll work itself out.”
Scherzer will join a rotation that already includes former No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, two-time all-star Jordan Zimmermann, right-hander Doug Fister, lefty Gio Gonzalez and Roark. Though the Nationals may break up that group before the season-opener, Scherzer said he is excited about joining an already star-studded rotation.
“For me personally, of course you want to see guys like that,” he said. “You always want good players on your team. You want Fister and Zimmermann, those are really highly-talented pitchers. Going forward, of course you want to see them on your ballclub.”
Scherzer will wear No. 31, which previously belonged to left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno, and presumably start Opening Day for the Nationals. Though Williams said that, too, is not set in stone.
“We’ll decide that at some point, I’d imagine,” he said.
After making an impressive debut in the final month of the 2013 season, Roark became a regular member of Washington’s rotation last season, finishing 15-10 with a 2.85 earned-run average. He was moved to a bullpen role during the National League Division Series, appearing in two games.
Roark was accepting of the move and said he did not prefer one role to the other.
“It doesn’t matter,” Roark said at the time. “I like being out there on the mound. I like to pitch. I like to go out there and throw strikes.”