© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
03/14/09 8:33 PM ET
Rowland-Smith, star hitter?
Left-hander goes 2-for-2 at plate in first professional at-bats
By Jim Street / MLB.com
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The conversation Mariners left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith was having with two reporters inside the visiting clubhouse at Hi Corbett Field on Saturday changed directions soon after pitch counts and innings pitched were mentioned. The preferred topic of the day -- hitting. "It could be interesting," he said.
The Australian lefty went into his start against the Rockies without an at-bat on his professional resume, but with the possibility of pitching three or four innings, he realized that he could step into the batter's box without a batting cage around him for the first time since he was a 17-year-old outfielder/infielder/pitcher in high school.
"I came close once last year, when we were playing the Giants [in a Cactus League game]," Rowland-Smith said. "I watched [Sean] Green, [Mark] Lowe and [Roy] Corcoran get at-bats, but I never did."
Rowland-Smith outdid himself, going 2-for-2 and scoring two runs in the Mariners' 10-5 victory.
The only player in Major League history with a hyphenated last name, Rowland-Smith slapped a single off third baseman Christian Colonel's glove in the second inning and lined a single into left field in the fourth inning.
"I took some batting practice on one of the back fields before the game, and it was terrible," he said. "I barely touched the ball."
Catcher Jeff Clement concurred that the hitting session against manager Don Wakamatsu was not a pretty sight.
"It was pretty ugly, and Wak throws about as good of BP as anybody," Clement said. "I gave [Rowland-Smith] a bad time about the ball hitting the backstop before he started to swing. It was not pretty. I took BP after him, and I wasn't sure how I would do after watching that display."
Wakamatsu might have been the most surprised by Rowland-Smith's offensive prowess.
"I would have bet my house that he wouldn't have done that," he laughed.
Rowland-Smith was using one of Clement's spare bats for his offensive show-off performance.
"I think I might have used it in 2007," Clement said. "I looked at it after [Rowland-Smith's BP], and it had a few [ball] marks on it already, and I knew it didn't come from his batting practice."
But after the two hits, Clement said he might have Rowland-Smith autograph the bat "and hang it on my wall."
Both of Rowland-Smith's hits came against veteran right-hander Jason Marquis.
And each time, Rowland-Smith took a called strike and then swung at the second pitch, hitting both of them exceedingly hard.
"Don't ever let anyone tell you hitting is tough, after watching that," Clement said, smiling.
The sight-for-sore-eyes of the day, though, occurred when Rowland-Smith scored from second base on an infield single in the second inning.
He was on second via a walk to Franklin Gutierrez when Ronny Cedeno chopped a grounder between third and short. Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes backhanded the ball and tried to get Cedeno at first for the final out of the inning, but the throw was high and late and Rowland-Smith kept chugging around third.
"Jeter [third-base coach Bruce Hines] waved me in, and I thought the ball went into left field," Rowland-Smith said. "When I got close [to the plate], I saw the throw [from first baseman Todd Helton] and didn't know whether to slide or tip-toe past the catcher."
It dawned on him that first-base coach Lee Tinsley had advised him not to slide, so he didn't.
The second run he scored was a walk in the park. He was on first base when Cedeno cracked a one-out home run to left field.
"It was a lot of fun," he said afterward. "I'd like to do it again."
It was a fun day for most of the Mariners, including third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo. He went 4-for-5 with a home run, double and four RBIs.
Tuiasosopo is now 17-for-34 this spring with seven doubles and two home runs.
"I saw him a little bit in September," Wakamatsu said. "I thought he came into came with a leaner body and more bat speed. He has shown me that he has a chance to hit. I have been pleasantly surprised."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.