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Roark to become starter and likely replace rookie in September

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Roark to become starter and likely replace rookie in September

With Denard Span ready to rejoin the team after an extended stint on the disabled list, the Nationals have optioned reliever Tanner Roark to Single-A Potomac.

While that may seem like a demotion for Roark, the three-year veteran will have a rewarding goal to work towards. The Nats plan to transition Roark back to starting and have him come back to Washington on Sept. 1 when rosters expand.

If all goes well, Roark will take the rotation spot of rookie Joe Ross, who is in uncharted territory in terms of innings pitched. Ross has thrown 136 2/3 innings this season, up from his total of 121 2/3 in 2014. The most he's ever pitched in one season is 122 1/3, a personal-high he set in 2013.

The Nationals are vague about exactly how many innings Ross will be allowed to throw, but will admit he's nearing his team-imposed limit.

"That’s a decision that we’ll have to make if and when we have to make it. But, he’s in uncharted territory. So, it’s a start-to-start, day to day, if you will," Matt Williams said. "And we’ll have to see where he goes from here, but we want to be prepared if in fact that time come. Where it’s time to shut him down, then we have somebody that is stretched out and ready to go."

Roark, according to Williams, will begin by throwing around 60 pitches in a start with Potomac. From there he will go to 80 pitches in his second outing, and then possibly be ready to come back to Washington.

"I would not anticipate him being down there for more than 10 days, more than the minimum," Williams said.

Roark goes to the minor leagues for the first time this season and for the first time since his first MLB call-up on Aug. 6 of 2013. He has bounced back and forth within the Nats' pitching staff this year, beginning as a reliever, then moving to starter, and then back to the bullpen.

Through all of it he has experienced some inconsistent results and holds a 4.54 ERA in 34 total games. Going back to starting is likely good news to him, but Williams explained that it is never fun for a big leaguer to go back down to the minors.

"It’s still not easy. The guy won 15 games last year. It’s not easy to do that at any time, but often times those decisions have to be made and we have to prepare. We have to make sure that if in fact Joe is at his limit in sometime in September, then we have somebody that’s prepared to do it," Williams said.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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@MLB

Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.