The Washington Nationals have a Grapefruit League game today with the Atlanta Braves at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches at 1:05 pm and about 5 hours after that game is complete, Tanner Roark will be pitching for Team USA in place of Chris Archer who is not returning to the World Baseball Classic.
The questionable treatment of Roark and Daniel Murphy is a reason why many players opt not to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The honor that comes with representing your country is beyond compare, but the bigger picture should be about getting yourself in prime condition for the team that pays your salary and in this case, the Washington Nationals, have now been placed in a precarious situation.
Participating in the WBC is voluntary, and many players turned down invitations to be part of the WBC. Daniel Murphy has only had a total of 6 at-bats in the entire WBC, and Roark before tonight’s game has only pitched 1 ¹⁄³ innings. Roark will add to that total tonight, but the damage has already been done to his arm endurance which is built up over the roughly 45 days of spring training. Roark should be pitching 5 innings by this time in March and he has not pitched in a game since March 11th. Daniel Murphy should be getting 3 to 4 at-bats every other day at this point in spring training.
Yesterday at his WBC press conference, Tanner Roark was asked a series of questions, here is one question with Roark’s answer:
That is an interesting answer that Roark gave. He prefaced his answer that it is a single-elimination game, but is that still bigger than pitching Game 2 of the 2016 NLDS in comparison when you’re behind one game in a best-of-five series? Before Roark pitched Game 2 of the 2016 NLDS, FOX Sports wrote, “Without question, this is the biggest start in Tanner Roark’s career” and that was their take ‘without question” then and understandable because if the Nats lost Game 2 and fell behind 0-2 in the series it would essentially be over. Roark would last 4 ¹⁄³ innings in that Game 2 giving up 2 runs and taking a no-decision.
Daniel Murphy departed Nats’ camp after the March 5th game with only 17 at-bats in Grapefruit League games where he was struggling to a .176 batting average. The stats don’t matter as it was early in camp, but the main goal with a player like Murphy is getting your timing synchronized to be ready for the regular season. Daniel Murphy has now been away from his Washington Nationals team for 16 days.
Dusty Baker to our knowledge never called Team USA’s manager Jim Leyland until two nights ago to discuss Murphy and Roark. If that is the case, what took so long? Dusty Baker also called Daniel Murphy to discuss the plans when Murphy returns to play with the Nationals which won’t be until Friday if the Team USA wins on Tuesday and that will give Murphy just 10 days with his Washington Nationals team before Opening Day.
“I talked to Murph,” Dusty Baker said. “He’s in a great state of mind, just wanted to know what was our game plan to get him ready when he comes back.”
Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux spoke to his confrere, Jeff Jones of Team USA, about his plans with Tanner Roark for Tuesday night’s start against Team Japan. While Maddux did not disclose the details of the conversation, it most likely was a pitch count limit of 50 for Roark for Tuesday night.
“When [Tanner Roark] left [for the WBC], he was up to four innings,” Baker said. “We can’t take him back to that threshold when he hasn’t pitched [much], so he’s more on a pitch count than probably almost anyone [at Nats’ camp].”
As they say, it is what it is and you have to hope for the best when Roark and Murphy return to the Washington Nationals. Today is another day for Roark and Murphy’s Washington Nationals teammates, and Gio Gonzalez has the start back in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Today’s Nats game is not televised but can be heard on Braves radio.
The line-up for today is:
.@AdamSpankyEaton leading things off vs ATL:
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 21, 2017
Here is the swinging bunt single by Ryan Zimmerman.