SEATTLE -- Ryan Rowland-Smith is 100 percent behind the return of professional baseball to his native Australia.It was jointly announced on Thursday by Major League Baseball and the Australia Baseball Federation that professional baseball will return to Australia in November with the launch of the Australian Baseball League. The ABL will provide the vast talent pool of baseball players from Australia with the opportunity to compete in an elite national league, which will serve as a pipeline to MLB and other international leagues. MLB has partnered with the Australian Baseball Federation in support of the league. "When I was a kid growing up in the mid-'90s, we had a professional league but it got shut down," the Mariners left-hander said. "It was really disappointing because I couldn't see any live, quality baseball." The inaugural ABL season will run from November through January and consist of six teams, representing Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. The six teams, stocked with prospects from several countries, will be aligned in a single division with each team playing a 40-game schedule. Each team will play a four-game series at home and away against each of the other five teams. The top four teams at the end of the regular season will move on to the playoffs, consisting of three best-of-three-game series. The playoffs will run from the last week of January through the second week of February. Rowland-Smith said he has arranged his offseason schedule so that he will spend November and December in Australia to help the ABL be successful. "I would like to be involved in any way I can to help the profile of it, possibly from a media level," he said. "Being more of a senior member of Australian Baseball Federation, me and hopefully some of the other guys, like Grant Balfour, will do the same thing."
Kelley has setback in rehab
SEATTLE -- The two-inning rehab outing right-handed Mariners reliever Shawn Kelley was supposed to have on Thursday night was called off because of discomfort in his right elbow."It's just been a little stiffer than normal lately, pretty much since Tacoma," said Kelley, referring to a one-inning rehab outing with Triple-A Tacoma on Monday. "I'm just going to take it easy and not rush." Kelley, an integral part of the Mariners' bullpen the past two seasons went on the 15-day disabled list effective June 16 with right elbow inflammation. He has gradually worked himself back to the point where he appeared to be one rehab outing away from rejoining the Mariners. But that changed on Wednesday when he threw on the side at Safeco Field and "just didn't feel really good afterward." "It's a little disappointing and a little frustrating because it was going pretty well for the most part," he said. "I'm tired of being on the DL. I want to pitch, but my elbow is telling me no right now." Kelley was scheduled to be examined by team medical director Ed Khalfayan prior to Thursday night's game against the Rangers. "He's been shut down until we know a little bit more about his injury," manager Don Wakamatsu said. With Kelley having undergone Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the Mariners have been cautious with his recovery. "Everything was on track, so to only throw one inning in one outing and have a setback is concerning," Wakamatsu said. "We have to be real cautious. The doctors are the ones that have to determine that, but from our standpoint, he's an awfully good pitcher. We have to make sure we take care of this. We'll know more after today." Kelley had a 3-1 record and 3.96 ERA in 22 relief appearances this season.
Two sides of Figgins
SEATTLE -- It has been a season of changes for Mariners second baseman Chone Figgins.He left the Angels via free agency and signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the Mariners. He also changed positions, moving from third base in Anaheim to second base in Seattle. But the most eye-popping thing of all could be the differences in batting averages for the switch-hitter. He batted .322 with five home runs and 42 RBIs in 410 at-bats against right-handed pitchers last season, compared to a .246 average, no home runs and 11 RBIs in 203 at-bats against lefties. This season, he's batting .308 in 130 at-bats against left-handers and .216 in 264 at-bats against right-handers. Go figure.
Mariners left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith, currently on the 15-day disabled list, is scheduled to start for Triple-A Tacoma against Iowa on Saturday. He threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and received clearance to return to the mound. He'll be on a 75-90-pitch limit. ... Catcher Josh Bard is still battling a stiff neck, but he was available for duty in Thursday night's game. ... With three more saves, David Aardsma will move into fifth place on the franchise's all-time list.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.