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Reds hope Roark will bring stability to rotation

February 15, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When the Reds overhauled their rotation with three offseason trades, the first deal brought right-hander Tanner Roark from the Nationals for reliever Tanner Rainey. Observers saw Roark as a solid middle-of-the rotation hurler who is steady and dependable while able to rack up innings.:: Spring Training coverage

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When the Reds overhauled their rotation with three offseason trades, the first deal brought right-hander Tanner Roark from the Nationals for reliever Tanner Rainey. Observers saw Roark as a solid middle-of-the rotation hurler who is steady and dependable while able to rack up innings.
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Cincinnati sees Roark as bringing much more to its starting five.
"Without committing to where these guys will be in the rotation, I know what you're asking. I see him as not just an innings eater. I see him as a guy who gives us a chance to win every time he goes out," Reds manager David Bell said on Friday. "That's saying a lot."
The Reds also acquired Sonny Gray from the Yankees and Alex Wood from the Dodgers in separate trades. This new trio joins Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani in the rotation.
Roark isn't too concerned where he will be slotted in the rotation.
"After the first game, what does it matter?" Roark said. "No matter what, you come every fifth day ready to go out and shove it up ... you know the rest. That's the mentality here: Go out and do your thing."
Starters have been working fewer and fewer innings around the Majors in recent years. But in four of his last five seasons, Roark has made at least 30 starts while pitching at least 180 innings. His best overall season was 2016, when he went 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA in 210 innings.
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"There's going to be a grind throughout the season," Roark said. "You can't let this game beat you. You've got to be ready to stay mentally tough. You've got to know when you're hurt or injured. There are things you can fight through that make you tougher as a baseball player."
Some of Roark's seasons in Washington tested him. After he went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in '14, the Nationals moved him to the bullpen when free-agent ace Max Scherzer was signed. Following the resurgent '16 season, he was somewhat inconsistent during '17 and '18.
Roark, 32, was 9-15 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 31 games (30 starts) and 180 1/3 innings for Washington last season while being worth 3.4 wins-above-replacement, according to Baseball Reference. A closer look shows that he ended strong. After going 3-12 with a 4.87 ERA in his first 20 games, the right-hander was 6-3 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 second-half starts.
"Maybe a little mentally," Roark said of the grinds of those seasons. "That's the biggest part of this game to stay out here. I know that I have all the right pitches, all the right stuff, the right mentality to be there. I'm going to use that and build off each start."
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A ground-ball pitcher who threw sinkers 39.4 percent of the time in 2018, according to Statcast™, Roark was tied for fifth in the National League in inducing 18 grounded-into-double plays.
"I would say he's a stable presence, a guy who has continually made good adjustments over the course of his career and seems to just get better and better," Bell said. "He's kind of a guy that has a lot of different experiences and a lot of success on good teams."
Going with eight relievers
There aren't many spots up for grabs in this Reds camp besides center field, the bench and bullpen. The bench battle appears to be for four spots while the bullpen is likely to have eight. Bell expects to carry 13 pitchers.
"Not completely set," he said. "I think we have to really take a closer look at our schedule out of the gate. Typically, you have more off-days, and I know we do. We'll factor all that in. I would anticipate carrying 13 more than 12 over the course of the season."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.