Unfortunately for Tanner Roark, his two dominant scoreless innings of work last night will prevent him from making his first major league start on Sunday.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson had thoughts about tabbing Roark as his starter for Sunday against the Mets, pushing Ross Ohlendorf to the bullpen, but with the 'pen being pretty worn down lately, Roark was needed to close out yesterday's 9-0 Nats win by delivering two innings of relief.
As a result, Ohlendorf will stay in the rotation for now and get the ball Sunday. Johnson had also considered bumping Stephen Strasburg up a day and having him start Sunday after working just two innings his last time out due to a rain delay, but Strasburg will stay on his regular turn and pitch Monday at Philadelphia.
"I'd still like to get (Roark) a shot at starting," Johnson said. "I like the way he goes about his business. ... One of the reasons that I felt he needs to get the opportunity, is you want to see him get the opportunity to see how it plays for going into next year. Would he be a candidate to start? You need to have as good a read on as many young pitchers as you can going forward.
"You never know about (Ross Detwiler) or (Taylor) Jordan, but you need to have more than just five. We're going to give him an opportunity to step up."
The problem right now is that Roark has been so effective in a relief role since getting called up to the majors that it would be hard to move him with the Nats playing at a high level recently.
Johnson admitted that Roark is probably better suited for a relief role than Ohlendorf because the 26-year-old Roark is more durable and is accustomed to working on an uncertain throwing schedule. But the Nats still want to give the rookie a chance as a starter to see what he can do.
A couple weeks ago, Johnson talked about wanting to give his younger players a chance to show what they can do in an expanded role. But with the Nats now putting themselves back on the fringe of the playoff picture, the focus is no longer as much on the future. That leaves Johnson straddling a line of sorts when it comes to how he writes out his lineup and makes his pitching decisions.
"You do what's best for today with an eye on tomorrow," Johnson said. "And the eye on tomorrow might mean having one of these young guys maybe not audition, but give them an opportunity to express that talent."
Tyler Moore certainly qualifies as one of those guys. Moore got five starts in a six-game span on the Nats' latest road trip (and batted .480 on the trip overall), but he didn't start any of the three games in the recent Marlins series, and he isn't starting tonight either. A lot of that has to do with the Nats facing four straight right-handed starters, and some of it has to do with Johnson still wanting to get Adam LaRoche fairly regular playing time.
"He's swinging the bat better," Johnson said of LaRoche. "The best lineup is when he's in there. They'll be some left-handers coming up that (Moore will) get some spots to play. And they'll be times when I'll want to throw him in there against a right-hander. So that's not put on the back-burner. Still there. That's still a role he knows going forward that unless he becomes a regular, he's going to have to learn to sit and then produce."
Meanwhile, the Nats were happy to see their former teammate, Michael Morse, get traded to the Orioles today, bringing a popular clubhouse guy back to the D.C. area. Morse has battled injuries this season and his production has dropped from when he was with the Nats, but the guys in the Nats' clubhouse know what the power-hitting Morse can do when he's clicking.
"He's a big impact on the lineup. Huge," Johnson said. "At Camden Yards? I shudder to think. That ballpark's made for him. He's that right-center hitter, and that's the jet stream. He's a good fit there. ... I think it's great. I'm happy for him."
Morse was constantly playing team DJ with the Nats, blasting music in the clubhouse and bringing up funny YouTube clips for teammates to watch. Johnson expects that act to continue up in Baltimore.
"They'll be having karaoke songs and all that over there," Johnson joked.