Roark developing two-seam fastball

MODESTO, Calif. - Tanner Roark has bounced between three levels over the last two seasons, and he has shuffled between the starting rotation and bullpen. Still, the right-hander continues to produce results. Lone Star Dugout sat down with Roark to chat about some of his recent adjustments.

Right-hander Tanner Roark has bounced around ever since the Texas Rangers selected him in the 25th round of the 2008 MLB Draft.

In nearly a year-and-a-half of professional baseball, Roark has played for the rookie-level Arizona Rangers, the High-A Bakersfield Blaze, and the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders.

Over that span, one constant has remained for Roark—he succeeded at each level.

The Illinois native became the first 2008 draft pick to reach a full-season league when he went to Bakersfield last summer, and he posted a 3.60 earned-run average in 30 innings.

Roark opened his first full season with Bakersfield, but he got a mid-season promotion to Double-A Frisco to fill an open spot. The 22-year-old performed admirably, allowing nine runs on 17 hits in 17.2 innings. Roark proved he could compete in the Texas League during his first full professional campaign.

Since returning to Bakersfield, Roark has continued to breeze through the hitter-friendly California League.

The righty has 25 appearances [five starts] with the Blaze this season, and he is 6-0 with a 3.32 ERA. In 59.2 innings, Roark has surrendered just 54 hits while walking 20 and striking out 68.

Roark is currently pitching out of Bakersfield's starting rotation while Jared Hyatt is on the disabled list with a groin injury. The 6-foot-2 hurler likely profiles as a reliever in the long run, but he has also pitched well as a starter over the last two seasons.

Although many pitchers experience late-season struggles during their first full season, Roark's stuff is actually improving. As discussed in the interview below, Roark recently made a mechanical change that got his fastball velocity back into the 90-93 mph range.

Additionally, Roark is working on a two-seam fastball to complement his four-seamer.

Jason Cole: Now that you have gotten some time under your belt in Frisco, and you did have some success there, just what were your thoughts on it? What kind of confidence has that given you, even though you had to come back to Bakersfield?

Tanner Roark: It has given me a lot of confidence. I know I can pitch at the next level, so I keep that in my head all the time. I know I can get back up there. I've just got to keep working hard.

Cole: When they brought you back down here, did they tell you anything about getting another chance in Frisco?

Roark: No. They had to re-activate Poveda and Kirkman, because Kirkman got hit in the foot or ankle. They had to bring those two back up, and I was a spot starter. It was just like last year when I came up to Bakersfield for Poveda. I'm just spot starting for Poveda.

Cole: You've done quite a bit of starting and quite a bit of relieving over the past two seasons. Do you feel more comfortable in one role? Do you prefer one over the other?

Roark: I pretty much just go out there in whatever role they have me in. I just go out there and do what I can—do what I've always done and pitch.

Cole: Now that we're on the stretch drive of your first full season, what are some of the things that you're running into that you wouldn't have known until you got to this point.

Roark: Fatigue, I'm fine with. My arm is holding up fine. I'm staying in shape. I just keep working hard and everything kind of works out that way—in a good way, if you keep working hard.

I kind of look at it as good karma. That's the way I think of it. If I work my butt off, I see good karma. Good things happen to good people. I keep that in my head all the time. I'm superstitious, so I always think that way.

Cole: Have you been working on anything mechanically lately?

Roark: Yeah. Danny Clark and Dave Chavarria told me that I bring my arms away from my body, and that causes me to throw across my body. I've been working on trying to stay straight and keep my head over the rubber and stuff.

I finally have more velocity, so I'm going to keep doing that and keep working on that. I'm going to get my slider where it needs to be. I'm trying to get a two-seam working. I've always tried to throw a two-seam, but it just never moved on me. I keep going at that.

Cole: Are you using the two-seam in games right now?

Roark: Yeah. I threw it a couple of times against Visalia. It was alright. I've got to get a better feel for it.

Cole: How long have you been working with the two-seam for and how has it come along?

Roark: I've been working on it—I try to throw two-seams every time I throw. I've been working on it practically all season. I asked all the guys on the team what grips, how do they use it, how do they throw it, and what they've got to do.

I think I finally got a hint of how to throw it from [Jorge] Quintero. Quintero's two-seam. He taught me to just keep my wrist loose and have that whip. Then it'll get that little dive at the end.

Cole: So it has nothing to do with how you actually grip the ball, it's just all about what you do with your arm and hand?

Roark: Right. You're always supposed to be loose when you're pitching. I guess it never crossed my mind—loose wrist, you get that whip, and then the tail at the end. That's what I'm going to try and do, even when I'm playing catch and stuff.

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