Roark out to show he's no one-summer wonder

Roark out to show he's no one-summer wonder

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tanner Roark has been dreaming about pitching in the Major Leagues since he was 4 years old. Last season, suddenly, his dream came true.

Now the 27-year-old right-hander would like to prove to the Nationals and to the baseball world that last summer's performance was no fluke.

Roark, who is competing with Ross Detwiler and Taylor Jordan for the fifth spot in the rotation, or a place in the bullpen as a long reliever, pitched the third and fourth innings on Monday and faced the minimum six batters, limiting the Yankees to two singles. Both runners were erased, one via a double play and the other trying to stretch a single into a double.

"Today, for his first outing, he was in the zone good," said manager Matt Williams. "That was what we saw last year. More of the same."

The difference this spring is that Roark is definitely competing for a roster spot.

"It's different, but I try not to think about it at all," Roark said. "If you fill your head with that kind of stuff, it can be negative for you. I don't want to try to ... do too much."

Pitching coach Steve McCatty declined to declare that any of the three rotation contenders has the inside track.

"We'll see how it shakes out," McCatty said. "We've got some real depth there.

"Roark has good velocity and outstanding command. Jordan has got great stuff. And he's got a [great] changeup. I just try to stay out of the way. I've fallen into a great situation."

After bouncing around the Minors for six frustrating years, Roark -- who was drafted by the Rangers in the 25th round in 2008 and acquired by the Nats in a 2010 trade for Cristian Guzman -- was finally summoned to the big leagues for the first time late last season, and he surprised everyone by posting a 7-1 record down the stretch.

Only two National League hurlers who worked at least 50 innings -- relievers Craig Kimbrel and Mark Melancon -- posted better ERAs than Roark's 1.51.

"It was really, really impressive," said McCatty, who added, "Could anybody pitch those numbers over a whole season?"

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.