Tanner Roark is sure his emotions will be running higher than normal when he takes the Great American Ball Park mound on Saturday to start against his former team, the Washington Nationals.
What he doesn’t know is whether the emotions will serve as motivation or distraction.
“We’ll find out,” the Reds right-hander said before Friday’s series opener. “Stay tuned. They can do both. You’ve got to channel it.”
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Roark, 32, was surrounded by a media group that included two Nationals beat writers and the team’s television dugout reporter with her camera crew, all wanting to know his thoughts about facing the team with which he spent the first five-plus seasons of his major league career before being traded to the Reds in December.
“It’s gonna be weird, especially pitching against them,” Roark (4-3, 3.20 earned-run average) said. “I’m sure I’ll see some of them during batting practice and some guys will come over say hello and we’ll catch up.”
Roark, who went 64-54 with a 3.59 ERA in 141 starts and 41 relief appearances with Washington, figures his knowledge of Nationals batters will be balanced by their insights into his tendencies.
“You just have to battle,” he said. “You expect it. There will be some emotions. It’s part of the game.
“It’ll be strange. I usually don’t make eye contact with batters, but I’m sure there will be some.”
Roark is scheduled to be opposed by right-hander Erick Fedde (1-0, 2.15 ERA) in Saturday’s 4:10 p.m. game.
Full strength: After missing three games with a tight right hamstring, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto was back in manager David Bell’s starting lineup for Friday night’s game. Also in the lineup was third baseman Eugenio Suarez, just two days after getting hit by a pitch on his left hand in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
“Like nothing happened,” Suarez said Friday. “I feel fine.”
Bell was critical of the umpires and the National League after the game, voicing his displeasure at what he saw as a lack of protection for his players. Bell, who was ejected from Wednesday’s game, had yet to hear anything from the league regarding his comments, he said.
Lots of lefties: After playing Wednesday’s game with just one left-handed relief pitcher, the complement was back to three for Friday’s game.
The Reds reinstated Zach Duke from the 10-day injured list and placed right-handed Robert Stephenson on the list with a cervical strain. The team also recalled left-handed Wandy Peralta from Triple-A Louisville. Peralta fills the roster spot vacated by right-hander Lucas Sims, who was optioned to Louisville on Thursday after starting on Tuesday and pitching 7-1/3 strong innings;
“I don’t think you need three left-handers, but with so many good left-handed batters, it’s nice to have,” Bell said.
Duke is 2-1 with a 6.32 ERA in 22 appearances this season. Peralta Is 0-1 with a 4.87 ERA in 24 games.
Stephenson, 2-1 with a 3.96 ERA in 21 games, had dealt with his problem earlier this season, but it cleared up before recently redeveloping, Bell said. The move was as much precautionary, the manager added.
“Even though it’s in his neck, it’s close to his shoulder, and we didn’t want it to affect the way he was throwing the ball,” Bell said.
Speaking of lefties: Bell also reported that left-handed Alex Wood is scheduled to start throwing bullpen sessions at the end of next week. Wood has been out all season with lower back issues. He recently began throwing on flat ground and is gradually his distance and number of throws.
Infielder Alex Blandino is set to start a rehab assignment with Louisville on Sunday, Bell said. That is the next step in Blandino’s comeback from season-ending surgery he underwent last July to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee, injuries he suffered turning a double play last July 20.
Welcome, R.J.: The Reds claimed off waivers from Seattle rookie right-hander R.J. Alaniz and immediately optioned him to Louisville. To make room on the 40-man roster for Alaniz, Wood was transferred to the 60-day IL.
Alaniz, 27, had no record and a 20.25 ERA in four relief appearances with Mariners this season.
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