Roark on call to Nationals: “This is so surreal”

Tanner Roark had a secret. It was a pretty big one.

He knew Sunday night. He told his parents and his fiancé.

He got the call to pitch in the majors for the Nationals.

The right-hander expressed his feelings from when his Triple-A manager relayed the news that he was going to be called up to the bigs.

“This is so surreal,” Roark said. “At first when I got the call and Tony Beasley told me, I was like, ‘Wow, this is what I have dreamed for.’ It started to sink in (that) I am coming to the big leagues, I’m coming to play with all the big boys. I am excited glad to be here.”

Manager Davey Johnson said Roark can fill a couple of crucial roles for the Nationals, either as a long reliever like Ross Ohlendorf, or as a fifth starter when Taylor Jordan has to be shut down due to the post-Tommy John innings limit.

“(We) just need some more innings, need a more-innings guy,” Johnson said. “He has been throwing the ball really good. (Minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams) really liked him. He fits the role, he can do both.”

Roark has allowed only three runs in his last three starts, a span of 19 2/3 innings. He has above-average stuff across the board, including an effective curveball and overall good command, according to a couple of Nationals sources.

Roark said his confidence today was built in 2012 when he began to really click on the mound.

“I really found my groove last year just staring at the glove, just looking at the catcher’s glove,” Roark said. “That is all I looked at throughout my windup and my stretch. Just looking at the glove and throwing whatever pitch that I gloved.”

Roark has been a starter and a reliever for the Nationals. He was employed as a starter earlier this season because rainouts opened up opportunities in doubleheaders to start.

“Early on in the year. we had a bunch of rainouts,” Roark said. “And we had doubleheaders coming up. I was filling in first or second game. I was doing OK. I found my way back into the starting rotation. That is how I was starting then.”

Roark said the strategy that goes into being an effective reliever is different than what you feel when you take the mound in the first inning.

“It is a different mindset,” Roark said. “You have to go out there and give your best stuff right away. Sometimes you get into the habit of not giving your best stuff when you are starting right away, kind of conserve. Right then and there, if there are guys on base you don’t want those guys to score, inherited runners. You want to go out there and attack, attack and attack. That is a different mindset than starting.

“Attacking, that is what I got out of the bullpen, and then what I brought as a starter. Just keep attacking, keep pressure on them, keep the hitter off-balance of course, but just pounding the strike zone.”

Roark came over in the 2010 trade with the Texas Rangers in exchange for shortstop Cristian Guzman. He remembers when he got that call, too - that he and Ryan Tatusko had been traded to the Nationals.

“The first thing I got out of it actually was I get to hit again,” Roark chuckled. “I used to love hitting in high school. That was the first thing that came to my head - when you play for a National League team, you get to hit. I was pretty excited about that.”

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