A few days ago I was playing amateur GM and ended up predicting the 8/6/13 roster moves, where Ross Detwiler was transfered to the 60-day DL and Tanner Roark was called up to provide some bullpen cover while Ross Ohlendorf is on the mend. Roark’s body of work both this season and over the past few warranted his call-up, and his mixture of success both in the starter role and in a long-relief role in AAA make him the perfect candidate to replace Ohlendorf for the time being.
A quick side note: whenever I see someone, after years and years of toiling in the minors, finally get the call-up I’m reminded of the storytelling of Dirk Hayhurst in his 2nd book Out of My League, where he described all the logistics and feelings of getting his first callup. Of particular interest; the pay. I’m sure Roark was compensated like a typical minor league veteran in AAA; probably making $1,500 a month or so (which was about what Hayhurst said he made). Upon signing a MLB contract, you immediately start getting paid a pro-rated amount of a minimum MLB salary, which is $490,000 a season. Well, you can quickly see that a guy getting called up immediately starts making significantly more money. 30-40 TIMES more money. More money per day in the majors than he was making in a month in the minors. So I say good for Roark and good for every guy who finally gets a shot at the bigs.
Lets take a look at Roark’s first appearance… which came last night on 8/7/13 in relief of a curiously ineffective Jordan Zimmermann, who needed 88 pitches to complete 4 innings as the Nats officially waved the white flag on the season, getting swept at home by the team they’re chasing for the division lead and falling to 15 1/2 games out of first.
Roark had a great MLB debut. He came in to face Atlanta’s 4-5-6 hitters and pitched a 1-2-3 inning. He got a Brian McCann to fly out on a relatively well struck ball, then badly jammed Chris Johnson to get a simple grounder to short, and then got Dan Uggla to reach for a first pitch fastball for an equally weak grounder to second. Coming back out to face the bottom of the order he effectively jammed BJ Upton, who flared a flyball into shallow center field that Denard Span couldn’t quite come up with in a sliding catch attempt, then he jammed Andrelton Simmons to get a simple pop-up to first. Lastly for his coup-de-gras, he induced a popped-up bunt attempt from his opposite number Kris Medlen, made a diving catch and then doubled off Upton, who was (I guess) running on the play.
Not a bad debut, at all.
The scouting reports on Roark said that he’d work mid 90s in relief, low 90s as a starter, and that’s exactly what we saw. Per the pitch f/x data, He threw 12 fastballs on the night which averaged 94.46, peaking at 95.52. He only threw three sliders, bouncing the first and probably ruining his confidence in the pitch. 10 of 15 pitches were for strikes, and that ratio should have been higher; his first batter he didn’t get a borderline call on the outside corner and the ump flat out missed a low strike. He seemed to have pretty good movement on the 4-seamer (-7.10″ average horizontal movement, which for comparison purposes almost as much as Medlen, a guy who relies almost exclusively on his movement, got on his 2-seamer last night). He certainly worked the corners effectively, only really giving up one well hit ball (that to McCann, who benefitted from being way ahead in the count thanks to the ump’s missed strike calls). You don’t have to throw 100mph if you can effectively work the ball inside and out.
He was almost too effective; 15 pitches to get through 2 innings meant he didn’t really work much of his repertoire. I’m sure he has at least a third pitch, but we never got to see it. Roark’s spot in the order was up, and he was out (as he was being pinch hit for, I wondered internally when the last time Roark got an at-bat was. Turns out he has 18PAs for Syracuse this summer; I didn’t realize the minor league pitchers got any at-bats).
It was hard not to like what we saw from him last night. Is he going to continue to be effective, can he stick in the majors? Hard to tell. Ian Krol giving up two hits and a walk in a third of an inning didn’t help his cause much, a similiarly ineffective appearance to his 7/31 outing. Fernando Abad has basically blown the last two games in which he’s appeared. But these two guys are blessed as being left-handers, so they possess value that a righty does not, and may not really be candidates to make way once Ohlendorf comes off the D/L. So we’ll see.
Meanwhile Tanner, use some of that MLB meal money to go get a haircut! :-)
PS. One more thought on this series since i’ve got nowhere else to put it; I’m disappointed we didn’t see retaliation of some sort last night for the BS of the night before. I’m sorry; you HAVE to protect your best player out there, and i’m not surprised to hear reports and see evidence that Bryce Harper was on edge last night with his own manager. As J.P. Santangelo succinctly pointed out; not protecting one of your own players can and does blow up clubhouses. I think somebody on Atlanta needed to get hit last night (likely McCann). I’m more than a little worried right now about the state of the clubhouse, given this lack of reaction.