PHILADELPHIA — Tanner Roark will make his first big-league start Saturday night, selected by Nationals manager Davey Johnson to pitch against the Marlins in place of veteran Ross Ohlendorf, who will move to the bullpen.
Johnson had said for a couple of weeks he wanted to give Roark a chance to start at least a game or two before season’s end. He made the decision to make the switch for Saturday’s game in Miami, bumping Ohlendorf back into a long reliever’s role.
“It’s nothing against Ohlendorf,” Johnson said. “Ohlendorf’s been great. But I think that the young man has deserved an opportunity to start a game or two before the end of the year. And I’ll keep Ohlendorf in the same slot as him, in case there’s any hiccups.”
A starter through most of his minor-league career Roark bounced between the rotation and bullpen this season at Class AAA Syracuse but has impressed since his first call-up last month. In nine relief appearances, the 26-year-old right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA, allowing only 14 hits in 22 2/3 innings.
“He’s been unbelievably good out of the ‘pen,” Johnson said. “But he’s a young starter, and our reports are that [minor-league pitching coordinator] Spin [Williams] really likes him as a big-league starter. So we’re going to take a good look at that.”
Johnson did consider starting Stephen Strasburg on Saturday, bumping his ace up a day but still keeping him on normal rest because of Thursday’s day off between series with the Phillies and Marlins. But Strasburg has been dealing with a sore right hamstring, so Johnson decided not to push it.
“There’s no sense taking any chance,” the manager said. “Just not worth the risk/reward.”