Right-hander Tanner Roark has been a key to the Nationals rotation coming together as a consistent, cohesive unit.
It is hard to believe Roark lost 17 games in 2012. He slowly but surely made progress and then in 2013, after going 9-3 with a 3.15 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse, got his chance with the Nationals.
While with the Nationals, he went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in 14 games, five of those starts.
This season he has already made 12 starts, going 4-4 with a 2.91 ERA. He has 101 strikeouts and only 29 walks in the last two seasons.
His numbers could be even better if he had received even middle-of-the-road run support and hadn't matched up with the Ranger's Yu Darvish, losing that game 2-0. He gave up five earned runs in his three losses. The Nationals offense offered only a total of three(!) runs in those three games against the Reds, Marlins and Rangers. He lost the Cincinnati game 2-1 and the Miami game 3-2.
His ERA actually dropped 17 points from 3.42 to 3.25 during that three-game losing streak.
Then on June 6, Roark produced an absolute gem - he struck out a career-high 11 batters, allowed no runs in eight innings with no walks and just three hits surrendered. He had given up just one hit in the first seven innings in the 6-0 defeat of the Padres.
Roark was acquired with Ryan Tatusko in the 2010 trade from Texas for shortstop Cristian Guzman. Credit the Nationals scouting department for recognizing the talent. Credit pitching coordinator Spin Williams, pitching coaches Paul Menhart and Chris Michalik for sticking with Roark, filling him with confidence and the tools to change his method after 17 losses in 2012. Since then, Roark has won 20 games.
A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen are other examples of pitchers that have come in trades, ironically both from the Oakland A's, and have flourished with the Nationals.
Cole is 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts with Double-A Harrisburg this season. In 54 2/3 innings, he has recorded 46 strikeouts. On May 17, he tossed a complete-game shutout. That week, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week.
In 2012 with Stockton in the A's system, Cole was 0-7 with a 7.82 ERA.
Treinen also pitched for Stockton in 2012, going 7-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 24 games (15 starts).
This season, Treinen was 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Syracuse. With the Nationals, he is 0-2 with a 1.78 ERA in seven games, including three starts.
Roark, Treinen, Nathan Karns and Taylor Jordan have all been called up within the last two seasons and have pitched well at the major league level. The pitching coaches and scouting departments of the Nationals have to be given some credit for getting these guys major league ready. When these hurlers struggled at times with other teams, the Nationals have done a good job of cleaning up their mechanics and working on improving the mental side of their games.
The next pitcher who could be close to getting the call is right-hander Taylor Hill.
We have talked about his work already this season. Despite allowing 14 hits in five innings and suffering only his second loss of the season on June 8, Hill is still 8-2 with a 1.92 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse. He has 52 strikeouts and only nine walks. He has surrendered only five walks in his past 10 starts.
Also, Nationals top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito spun four innings last night for low Single-A Hagerstown. He gave up no hits, three walks, no runs and struck out six batters. I would expect Giolito's innings limit to be moved up to five innings in his next start in five or six days. This is a very good sign that Giolito made it through four innings Monday. He has pitched only seven innings in two starts since May 11.