It was a mixed bag for the Nationals' pitching staff in their penultimate exhibition game on Friday night against the Twins, as starter Tanner Roark struggled for the first time this spring, but was followed by an impressive performance of five scoreless innings by the bullpen behind him.
Roark allowed three earned runs in four innings off seven hits. He had previously surrendered just one run in 14 innings spread across four spring outings. Despite him not allowing any walks, Dusty Baker thought Roark was a bit off compared to what he had seen in Viera.
"He ran into trouble because he was getting the ball up some," Baker explained. "His command hadn't been quite as good as it had been prior to this, but they're a good team over there. They're an American League team and they're built to hit. They used their DH tonight and they didn't."
Roark saw a Twins lineup that placed 12th in MLB in runs scored last year, and could be even better this season. They have a host of young players trending up including top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.
The Nationals' right-hander felt he should have been more aggressive as the game went on.
"I felt good. I just didn't stick to my fastball and got a little off-speed happy, I guess," Roark explained. "I wasn't making them uncomfortable. I was letting them stay comfortable in the box and not moving their feet. My stuff towards the end, in the fourth inning, wasn't the sharpest."
Roark's next outing will be in the regular season, but exactly when that will be is unclear. The Nats plan to adjust their rotation with two off-days in the first week of their schedule.
Roark left after the fourth inning with the game locked at 3-3. The Nationals would end up winning thanks to a go-ahead sac fly by Trea Turner, but it was all made possible by their bullpen.
Blake Treinen was particularly impressive in the eighth inning, needing only eight pitches - seven of them strikes - to record a 1-2-3 frame. He got Trevor Plouffe to strike out swinging before inducing two groundballs to get out of the frame.
Baker had some nice things to say about Treinen afterwards.
"He's figured it out. His sinker is something and his slider is working big time. He's throwing the ball up more on left-handers. He knew and Mike [Maddux] knew what they had to work on in spring training. Whenever somebody talks trades with us they always mention Treinen. He has tremendous value, especially at the tail end of the ballgame," he said.
Baker added that his ideal role for Treinen will not involve him pitching multiple innings. The skipper believes Treinen can be a huge asset for his bullpen and would like to have him for consecutive days during the season.