What’s wrong with Rowland-Smith

Jul 28, 2010, 9:56 AM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:52 pm

By Mike Salk

Update: Well, this is now solved. The Mariners have placed Ryan Rowland-Smith on the 15-day disabled list and have recalled Luke French from Triple-A Tacoma. I guess they had another option…

I’m sure Don Wakamatsu didn’t want to leave Ryan Rowland-Smith in the game. Clearly, he didn’t have good stuff. Clearly, he didn’t really have ANY stuff! No one wanted to embarrass one of the nicest guys on the team, but the bullpen was already taxed and someone had to take it on the chin in Chicago.

It’s been that kind of season for the the Australian.

2010 began with high hopes: a secure spot in the rotation and a start for the home opener. But things went south quickly and then just when you thought they might pick back up…they nose-dived even further.

In Chicago though, they hit rock bottom. Rowland-Smith was shelled. He tied a dubious Mariners record by giving up 11 earned runs in a game. His third home run in the game gave him the major league lead in that category. And it now seems impossible to imagine he’ll be able to remain in the rotation.

Last year, this would have been easy. The team would have sent the lefty down to the minor leagues where he could work through his mechanical problems (more on those in a moment). But that isn’t possible this season. He’s out of options and in order to get him to the minors, the team would need to designate him for assignment and pass him through waivers. That means every other team in baseball would get a shot at him. The way he’s pitching right now, there’s a good chance he would make it through (just as Ian Snell did earlier this year). Still, the risk is there.

I think it’s worth the risk.

Rowland-Smith is a bulldog who has shown he can compete at the major league level. If there is something worth salvaging there, the team should do all it can to find it. Left-handed starters are like gold. But he needs to work through his mechanical issues and the best place for him to do that right now is in the minor leagues.

Manager Don Wakamatsu, pitching coach Rick Adair and Rowland-Smith himself have all told me that his issues stem from a problem with his right leg. When he lands, he has a tendency to hyper-extend his right knee which then snaps back into place. The problem is that when it does, it sends almost a reverberation up his body and makes it difficult for him to release the ball in a consistent spot each time. It often causes him to leave the ball up (leading to the high home run totals).

With Adair, Rowland-Smith is working on a fix. Everyone says it is coming together in the bullpen but not translating yet to the mound.

“You can’t just do it in a game,” Rowland-Smith told me last week. “You have to be comfortable with the changes first. It takes time.”

But it looks like he doesn’t have that time in the majors.

If he is designated, the M’s have a few options in terms of a replacement. Chris Seddon has been nasty from the left side out of the bullpen since his call-up. But do thy want him to start long term? Luke French was held out of his scheduled start Tuesday night for Tacoma and he could obviously be a short-term fix. Ian Snell has not impressed in Tacoma. He is 3-2 with an ERA of 4.58 in 39.1 innings in Triple-A.

And then there’s Michael Pineda. The 21-year-old righty has been very impressive since his call-up to Tacoma. He has 42 strikeouts and just nine walks in 34 innings. Jack Zduriencik was in attendance when he struck out 11 on Friday night. But he is ostensibly there to work on his consistency. Is he ready to try that in the majors? I’m not sure I see a compelling reason why he should.

My guess is Rowland-Smith is DFA’d, passes through waivers and is sent to the minors to work on his mechanics. I think French will be called up now with Pineda wairting another month or so for rosters to be expanded in September.

Rowland-Smith told me he will change his entire approach to the offseason with mechanical tinkering and more throwing. We’ll see if the Mariners are the team that benefits.

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