After Tanner Roark labored through 54 pitches in just two innings, and after a rain delay of 85 minutes, the Nationals decided to stick with the right-hander when play resumed in the Nats' home opener loss to the Marlins on Thursday evening.
It's not often a pitcher continues after sitting for so long, and afterwards manager Dusty Baker admitted he and pitching coach Mike Maddux were close to turning to someone else.
"Mike and I talked about it. Like always, we were getting pretty close to when it was going to be too long. But he was throwing in between in the bullpen. I asked him, I said 'hey man, you tell us the truth how you feel, any tightness or anything.' He said 'yeah, no I'm not. I'm telling you the truth,'" Baker explained.
"It's too early for heroes in game number three. You have to take him at his word, he's a pretty honest guy, and Mike evaluated and I evaluated and decided to send him back out there."
Roark stayed loose during the delay by throwing 20 pitches in the underground batting cage every 10 to 15 minutes to simulate innings. He actually felt his pitches improved as he continued to throw.
"I still felt good. I wasn't tired or anything like that. My body still felt great. I feel like my pitches were a lot better after I came out after the rain delay," he said.
The results for Roark, though, were not so good. He ended up with four runs allowed - three of them earned - on three walks and nine hits. He made it only four total innings as his pitch count soared to 99.
It was an uneven season debut for Roark, but his teammates appreciated his willingness to power through the rain delay.
"For any starting pitcher to sit down for that length of time and then come back out, I definitely commend Tanner for what he was trying to do, save the bullpen," second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "Definitely trying to save some bullets down there. A little bit of tough luck for him but I thought he threw the ball pretty well considering."
Roark was also able to take solace in the fact all nine hits he allowed were singles. He also got to pitch his first home opener, which was a unique experience in itself.
"It's an honor, for sure. Definitely my first one, in front of a sold-out crowd. Nerves were high, they always are. But it was an awesome experience to get out there. I wish I could've gone a little longer, but things happen, and you move on to the next one," he said.