The Washington Nationals will have at least one starting pitcher in the World Baseball Classic because Tanner Roark has committed to play for Team USA, according to a person familiar with the situation. Max Scherzer had also committed but earlier this week he revealed a stress fracture in his right ring finger would keep him out of the competition. Daniel Murphy (USA) and Oliver Perez (Mexico) are the only other Nationals known to be competing, though new names continue to trickle in as the tournament nears.
Roark’s decision did not have anything to do with Scherzer’s injury, as Team USA invited the right-hander to compete weeks ago, according to a person familiar with the situation. The righty will join Rays right-hander Chris Archer and Blue Jays up-and-comer Marcus Stroman in the USA rotation, according to reports from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, who first reported Roark’s commitment.
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has been supportive of WBC recruiting efforts, willing to let his players compete despite the inherent injury risks of high-level competition weeks before opening day. Roark, who will pitch this season at age 30, logged a career-high 210 innings last season, and enters this season as a more crucial part of the Nationals rotation than ever before. With Scherzer coming off a finger injury, and Stephen Strasburg coming off what became a season-ending elbow injury, the Nationals cannot afford to lose emerging ace Roark.
Regardless, he will pitch for the Americans, who have never won a WBC and have seen fewer top players commit to the tournament than Latin American countries such as the Dominican Republic. The U.S. plays its first pool play game on March 10 in Miami, an hour or so from the Nationals’ new spring training home in West Palm Beach.