Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan make Nats’ Opening Day roster with Doug Fister out

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April 5 vs. Braves - Stephen Strasburg

April 6 vs. Braves - Taylor Jordan

That means Roark will start the home opener for the Nationals against the reigning NL East-champion Atlanta Braves. Roark was supposed to pitch in Saturday’s exhibition game against the Tigers, but it was canceled due to rain. Instead Roark threw a heavy bullpen session at Nationals Park to keep him on track for April 6.

Roark thinks he will be fine with the adjusted schedule.

I just threw a bullpen. Nothing you can do about it. You can’t control the weather so I’m not going to worry about it.”

Roark came up in August of last season and dazzled both out of the bullpen and as a starter. He finished the year 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in 53 2/3 innings across 14 games. This spring he went 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA, earning the opportunity to start the home opener.

The day will surely be a big production at Nationals Park. They roll out the red carpet, players and coaches are introduced, and there is usually a flyover. It is not your usual afternoon game.

Roark understands that and thinks he’ll feel jitters no matter what he does between now and then.

“It’s still a big deal. I’m not going to tell you I won’t be nervous. If you’re not nervous, you’re not human. I’m excited for it. I’m glad I got the ball in the home opener.”

For his debut last season, Roark’s hometown of Wilmington, Illinois put on quite the watch party for him. Many of the town’s 5,700 people converged on his cul de sac to see the game on a big projector screen. Roark expects a similar situation on April 6.

“I’m sure there will be. I’m sure there will be a projector screen out in the cul de sac and they’ll get the road blocked out, cut off the cul de sac so nobody can drive through. It’s just one great, big get-together.

“It’s a small town of 5700 people so everybody knows everybody. I’m sure I’ll be getting tons of text messages and phone calls after the game and God knows what.”

 

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