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Roark simplifies windup, mindset on mound

Special to MLB.com

JUPITER, Fla. -- Baseball can be a complicated game, but it doesn't have to be. Simplifying things is what Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark strives for, and sometimes that's easier said than done.

Roark made his spring debut on Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, working the first two scoreless innings and allowing just one hit. He settled down after a somewhat rocky first to strike out the side looking in the second. Roark threw 33 pitches, 18 for strikes.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Baseball can be a complicated game, but it doesn't have to be. Simplifying things is what Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark strives for, and sometimes that's easier said than done.

Roark made his spring debut on Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, working the first two scoreless innings and allowing just one hit. He settled down after a somewhat rocky first to strike out the side looking in the second. Roark threw 33 pitches, 18 for strikes.

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Keeping it simple is what Roark said he is trying to accomplish this spring. He has a tendency to get too pumped up and rock back on his windup, throwing off balance.

"Stuff gets out of whack, so now I'm just standing already sideways on the rubber going forwards, backwards. It's kind of like a momentum thing," Roark said. "I've seen pitchers do it, and I wanted to try it and see how I felt. Simple is always better."

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The 31-year-old said the simplified windup feels right. It certainly worked for him in the second inning. He caught Miami's Eric Campbell, Tomas Telis and Monte Harrison looking in succession, effectively using his two-seam fastball.

"Down and away is my biggest key because I step so far across my body and I'm on the third-base side," Roark explained. "So that's the toughest one to hit right away, is that two-seamer comebacker to my glove side."

Roark was shaking off the rust after not pitching since an Oct. 1 appearance. He did not see postseason action.

"I felt good, the second inning felt a lot better than the first, just get my bearings down," Roark said. "Timing was huge, so I felt like my second inning was my best one. Timing is usually the biggest thing for me in general. If something is off, it's probably my timing."

Video: PHI@WSH: Roark fans six over six strong frames

Roark said that means either he's going too fast to the plate or his arm isn't getting up quick enough. 

"Sometimes you have to tell yourself, 'Get your arm going or just deliberately slow down your windup,'" Roark said.

Roark understands that a lot of his struggles last season stemmed from simply thinking too much on the mound.

"When you think [too much], you suck," Roark said. "So I just go out there, you know what you need to do, and focus on the things that you need to do. Most of the time it's just the small, little things that you need to do that will fix everything else."

Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com.

Washington Nationals, Tanner Roark