“If they want me to throw one pitch to one guy, I’ll do it,” he said. “Anything to help out the team. It’s a different mindset. Starting, you’ve got four days to prepare yourself. Relieving, you flip that switch right away once you hear that phone ring. Everybody looks back to see who’s name will be called. But I like starting, I guess.”
Coming off a spectacular 2013 campaign where he went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in 14 games down the stretch in the Nationals’ unsuccessful playoff push, the 27-year-old right-hander is less concerned with what he’s doing and more focused on making sure he’s in a Washington uniform to do it.
“I know it’s going to be a competition coming in, but I’m still going to treat it as any other day,” Roark said Saturday at NatsFest. “Can’t overthink it too much, because that’s when you get in your own head.”
Perhaps that helps explain Roark’s pragmatic approach to 2014. He’s been lumped into a group of pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the rotation - including right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and lefty Ross Detwiler - and says he’d prefer to start, but is happy to take on any role the Nats throw his way.
“I’d love to be the fifth starter, but if I could make the team out of spring training, that would be great to help the team out any way that I can,” Roark said. “I just want to make the team.”
He certainly won’t have any jitters coming into camp. Not after pitching like a grizzled veteran at the end of last season.
“It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders,” he said. “You’re not as nervous. But I still get butterflies and I’m nervous every time I’m out. It’s prepared me well, and being around a good group of guys who taught me who have talked to me and settled me down sometimes is good, too.”
Last season, he said, “is still sinking in.” Pitching coach Steve McCatty has only told him to be ready to compete for the last spot in the rotation. Which is what Roark will do - unless he’s told otherwise.
The Nationals certainly know he can succeed in different roles.
“It’s good either way,” he said.