JUPITER, Fla. - Tanner Roark and Daniel Murphy won’t be rejoining the Nationals until Thursday at the earliest, but at least Roark is slated to get some much-needed work at the World Baseball Classic.
Roark reportedly will start for Team USA in Tuesday night’s semifinal game against Japan, with the Rays’ Chris Archer (who had returned to spring training) saying this morning he has been told he won’t be needed at Dodger Stadium for the assignment.
If Roark gets the ball, it will be only his second appearance since he left Nationals camp two weeks ago, and his first start. The right-hander pitched 1 1/3 innings in the Americans’ March 11 first-round game against the Dominican Republic but hasn’t taken the mound again since.
The Nationals have set up their rotation in a manner that would allow Roark to slide back in once he returns. Vance Worley is listed as Monday’s starter against the Yankees, with Gio González’s turn coming up Tuesday and Max Scherzer slated to start his first Grapefruit League game Wednesday, followed by Joe Ross on Thursday and Stephen Strasburg on Friday.
Roark could make two exhibition starts for the Nationals on normal rest (March 26 and 31) and then be in line to start the season’s second game (April 6 against the Marlins), with Stephen Strasburg lined up for opening day and Scherzer (whose timeline this spring has been delayed by a stress fracture in his ring finger) for the final game of the opening series April 7.
Roark should be able to get an appropriate amount of work in advance of the regular season, but the same probably won’t be true for Murphy. The second baseman and reigning National League MVP runner-up did not appear in Team USA’s dramatic win over the Dominican Republic on Saturday night, and it’s debatable whether he will see any action in Tuesday’s semifinal as well.
Murphy has taken only six at-bats in WBC play, going hitless - he also went 1-for-7 in two exhibition games the Americans played before the tournament began - and he has consistently been passed over by manager Jim Leyland by Ian Kinsler at second base and Paul Goldschmidt and Giancarlo Stanton for DH duties.
Murphy, whose swing was still a work in progress when he left camp on March 5, likely will have only one week with the Nationals in Florida to get himself ready for the regular season.
“That’s not long enough,” manager Dusty Baker said, who suggested he may revamp his season-opening lineup until Murphy has had more time. “Because he didn’t have his stroke together when he left. Can’t get it sitting, and you can’t get it really taking BP. You gotta get some live pitching. God forbid if something happens - he gets hurt, or something early - then shoot, who knows when he’ll get his stroke. The main thing is, you can’t force-feed the time, because then you’re risking injury.”
The Nationals will get one potentially key player back in camp in the next day, with left-hander Enny Romero heading back to West Palm Beach following the Dominicans’ elimination. The young reliever pitched in two WBC games, retiring all eight batters he faced (three by strikeout).
Romero, acquired from the Rays over the winter, is in the mix for a spot in the Nationals bullpen, a situation complicated by the fact he is out of options and thus can’t be sent to the minors without first being placed on waivers.
“I wish he were here, especially because we don’t know him,” Baker said. “He said he was ready. And that’s a must, because he’s out of options.”