Nobody was cracking any smiles in the clubhouse tonight. Ryan Rowland-Smith is a popular player amongst other Mariners. He worked very hard, against plenty of odds, to make it to the big leagues as an unheralded Australian and is now fighting just as ferociously to stay there.
Unfortunately for him, though, it’s not working out.
Rowland-Smith allowed a team record-tying 11 runs tonight and it wasn’t pretty watching him fight through five innings to spare his bullpen some work. I’ve used some boxing and basketball analogies to describe it in my game story and wasn’t trying to be cute. The beating was that bad. Almost every pitch Rowland-Smith threw was up in the zone and getting jackhammered.
Afterwards, he was as down as I’ve ever seen him. He knew how much was riding on this game. And he knows how poorly he performed.
“I was working on some stuff,” he said. “Some was good, some was bad. I’m still working.”
He answered a few more questions by muttering that his pitches were up, then looked like he wanted to beg off for the night. Nobody pushed him. He’d taken quite a beating.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said he didn’t want to leave him out there to take the pounding he did, but had little choice because he needs the bullpen for the remainder of this trip against some tough-hitting clubs.
As for Rowland-Smith’s future?
“We’ll dialogue, obviously about what we’re going to do from this point forward,” Wakamatsu said. “We’ll have some discussions with (general manager) Jack (Zduriencik) and we’ll make a decision.”
There won’t be much dialogue about a change. Given the savagery of tonight’s onslaught by the White Sox, a change has to be made. Wakamatsu said that if one occurs, it will almost certainly come from the Class AAA ranks.
Zduriencik watched Michael Pineda strike out 11 guys in five innings last Friday in Tacoma. Pineda will almost certainly be called up at some point. But is he ready now? The last things the team needs is a guy who can’t get through five big league innings. And that would be a concern at this stage with a relatively untested AAA pitcher.
Would you want to throw Pineda in against Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau right away? You could. Not like there are easier opponents on the horizon the next little while.
Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair just could not explain why all the mechanical adjustments Rowland-Smith seems to be perfecting in the bullpen are not carrying over into games.
“if we could answer that question we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Adair said. “It’s been unbelievable the progress he’s made, the adjustments he’s made. The command, all four pitches. The side work. And right now, it’s just not translating into the game.
“I feel bad for the guy because he’s really working hard, preparing hard, gaining an understanding of things,” Adair said. “It’s frustrating. I was looking probably as forward to this start tonight as I have any since I’ve been here.”
Adair said there are so many adjustments Rowland-Smith has made that it’s tough to describe it all. The goal is to ge more of an angle to his pitches, but “as good as he is in his sidework, it just hasn’t translated into a game.”
Going forward, Adair said he’d still vouch for Rowland-Smith.
“Honestly, I believe in what the kid is doing,” he said.
But that’s not enough.
Josh Bard expressed some of what Rowland-Smith’s teammates are feeling towards him now.
“Everybody’s hurting for Row,” he said. “Because there’s nobody who prepares more. There’s nobody who works harder.”
Bard has been there in the bullpen sessions and sees what he’s accomplished there.
“Anytime you’re having a tough year, emotion gets into it,” Bard said. “You want to play well. It might be trying too hard. I just know that there’s something right now that’s not translating over from the bullpen to the game.”
Bard said the team, as a whole has to do a better job of executing and not leave it all on Rowland-Smith.
“There’s no way we should be this bad,” he said.
Bard’s right about that.
The M’s have one run in their two losses here.
But in this case, the game was over after the first inning at 4-0 down. It was really over at 7-0 down through two. And at 11-0 down through five.
That’s not on the offense, even if Jose Lopez did muff up a first inning rally with a double-play grounder. Lopez tweaked a hamstring on the play and is day-to-day and could play tomorrow. Still, even if he converted that situational hitting chance, his team probably would have lost 11-1 instead of 11-0.
Rowland-Smith was that bad. So, with apologies to Bard, this one was on the pitcher, not the hitters.
And that pitcher probably just used up his final rotation chance. We’ll see.