PEORIA, Ariz. — Ryan Rowland-Smith has studied the roster, thought about the combinations and come to an important conclusion.
There’s nothing he can do about his chances of making the Seattle Mariners’ opening-day roster beyond what he can do himself. And that’s been awfully good this month.
The 25-year-old left-hander has allowed one earned run in nine spring training appearances, that coming Tuesday when he pitched two innings of a minor league game. He allowed three hits and a walk in two innings against the Texas Rangers’ Class AAA team.
Otherwise, Rowland-Smith has done nearly everything within his power to win a spot in the Mariners’ bullpen. It’s up to the organization to see if he’ll be at Safeco Field for the season opener on Monday.
“I’ve got to be honest, it plays on your mind all the time,” the 6-foor-3 Australian said. “You try not to read anything into it when you see who’s throwing on this day and that day. The season is bearing down and you’re trying to figure out where you fit in. I always try to stay positive and tell myself that it’s not where I am in April, it’s where I am in September.”
Well, he’s not quite that pragmatic about the situation.
Rowland-Smith badly wants to make the opening-day roster after an offseason like no other. The Mariners sent him to Venezuela to be a starter in the winter league, building his stamina in case he’d be needed in the 2008 rotation.
The trade for Erik Bedard and signing of Carlos Silva ended any chance that Rowland-Smith could be in the rotation, but he came to spring training bent on making the bullpen.
He and Arthur Rhodes are the only pitchers on the staff who haven’t allowed an earned run in Cactus League games. However, with Eric O’Flaherty already settled as the left-handed relief specialist, Rowland-Smith’s chances of making it aren’t certain despite his success.
If the Mariners decide to keep knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey (a Rule 5 draft pick) and right-hander Cha Seung Baek (who’s out of minor league options), there may not be room for Rowland-Smith.
“I’ve had conversations with my parents and they’re trying to stay sane,” he said. “They ask, ‘Have you heard anything? Have they explained anything to you?’ All I can say is, ‘I haven’t heard anything.’”
All he can do is pitch, which he has done well with one exhibition outing remaining, probably this weekend in Las Vegas.
“I’m really happy with how I’ve thrown. Really happy,” Rowland-Smith said. “Oh, there were a few things, like a leadoff walk here or there or a couple of two-strike pitches I wasn’t happy with.
“But overall, I’m stoked with how I’ve done. It’s what I wanted to do coming into camp. I knew the rotation was set and I just tried to get one of the spots in the bullpen. I think I’ve given myself a good opportunity.”
And if the roster moves later this week fall in his favor, it would be a dream come true to be introduced at Safeco Field on Monday.
“It would mean a lot. I’ve worked real hard this offseason,” Rowland-Smith said. “When there was a chance for the fifth spot in the rotation, I changed my whole workout plan. I’ve worked really hard up to this point. I’ve been trying to compete and compete and compete. Everything was meant so I could be there on opening day.”
Morrow hit hard: Brandon Morrow sat at his locker a few minutes after his minor league outing Tuesday afternoon when a teammate asked how it went.
“I got shelled,” Morrow said.
That pretty well summed it up, although there was more at stake for Morrow than the ugly numbers against him when he pitched for Class AAA Tacoma against the Rangers’ Oklahoma City team.
He gave up five runs on four hits and two walks with a strikeout in 1/3 inning before being lifted. He was supposed to pitch a full inning.
Morrow, coming back from shoulder stiffness that kept him out of games for nearly two weeks, had plenty of velocity on his fastball Tuesday. He didn’t see any radar gun numbers but it was clear by the late swings that hitters weren’t catching up to it.
However, he struggled to control that pitch and constantly fell behind in the count. Then he’d take a little off the fastball to get it over the plate, and he got hit.
“I guess it’s to be expected. You can’t do well every time out,” said Morrow, who pitched a scoreless inning in a minor league game two days ago. “It was a frustrating one. But the point is to make sure my arm is strong, and I’m feeling good. I feel strong.”
Manager John McLaren agreed that the key for Morrow at this point is that he feels good, but he admitted being concerned about his control
“You’ve got to make sure the control’s not something caused by soreness or something, that he’s pumping up just to get the velocity up there,” McLaren said. “The game is about throwing strikes. First of all, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Morrow was reluctant to use it as an excuse, but he became another in a line of Mariners major leaguers who’ve pitched this month on the minor league fields and were uncomfortable with the steepness of the mound.
“Where your foot was supposed to land, it felt like it would fall another three or four inches,” said Morrow, whose misses were mostly low in the strike zone. “It’s tough to get that feel in just a few warmup pitches.”
To that, McLaren shrugged.
“The game’s about making adjustments,” he said.
Of note: Jose Lopez batted second again Tuesday night and McLaren gave his strongest indication yet that he may hit there when the season starts. “We’re thinking about it strongly, I think that’s safe to say,” McLaren said. … Backup infielder/outfielder Willie Bloomquist got nine at-bats in minor league games Tuesday. He’ll play in today’s game against the Royals in Surprise, McLaren said. … Richie Sexson played first base Tuesday for the first time since March 17 after developing bursitis in his right shoulder.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com