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Tanner Roark

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Tanner B. Roark

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Tanner Roark made the majors in 2013, one year after leading the minors in losses.

Roark was three-time All-State in high school and also was an All-State quarterback in football. As a college freshman, he went 4-0 with a 4.99 ERA. His sophomore year, 2007, he had a 8-2, 4.55 record. He tied Zach Putnam for second in the Big Ten Conference in wins, one behind Cory Luebke, though his 102 hits allowed were also second (behind Tyler Tufts). He left school in January 2008 and struggled with the independent Southern Illinois Miners (23 H, 25 R, 9 BB in 9 2/3 IP, 0-2). Despite not pitching in college that year, the Texas Rangers took him in the 25th round of the 2008 amateur draft. The scout was Derek Lee.

Tanner pitched for the AZL Rangers (2-1, 2 R, 1 ER in 12 1/3 IP) and Bakersfield Blaze (1-3, Sv, 3.60 in 12 G, 37 K in 30 IP) in the summer of 2008, doing much better than he had for Southern Illinois. He was sharp in 2009 for Bakersfield (10-0, 2.70) and the Frisco RoughRiders (1-1, 4.58), striking out 100 in 104 1/3 IP. He tied Omar Poveda for the most wins by a Rangers farmhand and tied for 9th in the California League. He opened 2010 with the RoughRiders and was 10-5 with a 4.20 ERA right before the trading deadline. He was shipped at that point to the Washington Nationals with Ryan Tatsuko in exchange for Cristian Guzman.

After the deal, Roark made six starts for the Harrisburg Senators, going 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA. Despite not pitching there for the final month, he tied Blake Beavan, Ryan Edell and Keith Weiser for 6th in the Texas League in victories. He had an undistinguished 2010 for Harrisburg (9-9, 4.69). In 2012, he had an okay ERA for the Syracuse Chiefs (4.39) but went 6-17 for an otherwise 64-57 team. One sign of his poor luck is that teammate John Lannan was 9-11 with a nearly identical 4.30 ERA. He easily led the 2012 International League in losses (5 more than Pat Misch or Pedro Villarreal, who tied for second), was second to Scott Elarton with 89 runs allowed and 5th with 130 strikeouts (between Jeff Locke and Jeurys Familia). He was third in the Nats chain in whiffs behind Nate Karns and Alex Meyer while leading in losses (again by 5). He also led all of minor league baseball in losses, two more than Seth McClung and Deck McGuire.

Roark was better back with Syracuse in 2013, starting off 9-3 with two saves, a 3.15 ERA and a WHIP just under 1. He was called up to the majors at that point; Washington optioned Xavier Cedeno to open a roster spot. He made his debut in relief of Jordan Zimmermann, entering with a 2-2 tie in the 5th against the Atlanta Braves on August 7th. He retired Brian McCann, Chris Johnson and Dan Uggla in order in the 5th. B.J. Upton got the first hit off Roark, a 6th-inning single, but Roark turned a double play on a bunt attempt by Kris Medlen for another 1-2-3 ending. Roger Bernadina batted for Roark in the bottom of the 6th. Roark then won his next two outings, also in relief. He ended the year with an excellent record of 7-1 and a 1.51 ERA in 14 appearances, including 5 starts.

Roark made the Nats' pitching staff out of spring training in 2014. His first appearance of the year was an emergency start on April 3rd against the New York Mets when scheduled starter Jordan Zimmermann woke up feeling sick. He struggled early, giving up a pair of 1st-inning runs but did not allow anything else in the next 5 innings to gain credit for his team's 8-2 win. On April 26th, however, he pitched the best game of his career, when he retired the first 16 San Diego Padres batters he faced on his way to a complete game, three-hit shutout during which he struck out a personal best 8; the Nats won that game, 4-0.

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