Jul 24, 2008

Ryan Rowland-Smith dropped to make way for a Putz

After pitching 4 pretty strong innings on Sunday, Ryan Rowland-Smith was dropped to AAA Tacoma Rainiers to make way for a putz - JJ Putz who was returning from the DL. It seems that he is supposedly being groomed to come back as a starter. While it must have been pretty disheartening, RRS seems to be taking it in his stride: "All I can do is pitch, go to Triple-A and work my ass off and give them no reason to keep me out of Seattle," he said. For more of his thoughts, check out his latest blog post.

Meanwhile, Grant Balfour has continued his strong season. He pitched a clean inning on Tuesday against the A's.

Jul 19, 2008

Balf saves again

Grant Balfour is back in business after a small slip before the All Star break. He recorded his fourth save of the season today against the Toronto Blue Jays. Balf came in to the top of the 8th with 2 out, and a runner on 3, with the Rays clinging to a 2-1 lead. He got behind early, going to 3-0 against Alex Rios, but bounced back to strike him out swinging. He came out again in the top of the 9th and retired the side in order, with 2 strikeouts and 1 popout to third. He ended the day with the tidy figures of 1.1 inning pitched, 3 strikouts, no hits, no walks.

There are a couple of interesting articles about Balfour online at the moment. Tampa Bay Online reflects on Balf being DFA'd after spring training, and also considers what role he may play if and when the Rays' regular closer Troy Percival is healthy again. And if you are into fantasy baseball, or just want a slightly amusing take on Balfour as an Aussie, check out today's Closing Time from Yahoo fantasy baseball.

Jul 17, 2008

Hughes the man?

Just a couple of days after appearing in the All Stars Future Game at Yankee Stadium, Perth native Luke Hughes made waves in the Double-A All Star Game today. He smashed a 400-foot homerun in the 6th inning to score 3 runs and give the North All-Stars the lead over the South. Hughes was the designated hitter for the North, and went 1-for-4, but he made sure the hit counted.

He jumped on a 3-1 fastball and sent it sailing over the left field fence to score three. Hughes has had a big year so far, and could reasonably expect a promotion to AAA, or even to the Bigs later this year.

Jul 15, 2008

Aussie Updates (15 July)

As we head into the All Star break, there was a bit of Aussie action earlier this week:
  • Both Ryan Rowland-Smith and Grant Balfour made appearances. RRS gave up a couple of hits and an earned run, Balf regained some form, giving up 1 hit, but allowing 0 runs, and striking out 2 over 2 innings of work against the Indians. What a difference a week makes. The Rays have dropped seven in a row, and are no longer atop the AL East standings.
  • There is a video of Luke Hughes and Scott Campbell on MILB.com, showing them touring the Big Apple prior to the All Star Futures Game. Both players featured in the game, with Hughes going 0-for-2 and Campbell going 0-for-4 but scoring a run.

Jul 10, 2008

Aussie Updates (10 July 2008)

The shine has rubbed off the success of Ryan Rowland-Smith and Grant Balfour today:
  • Balfour pitched in the Rays loss to the Yankees, and he took the loss after giving up the game winning hit to Bobby Abreu. He hadn't pitched too badly, coming on in the ninth and getting out of a jam by striking out Melky Cabrera and drawing a pop out from Jose Molina, to leave the winning run stranded at third. He came out again in the bottom of the tenth, and struck out Brett Gardner. He then walked Derek Jeter, before giving up a long double to Abreu that allowed Jeter to score and the game to end. Unlucky Balf. He battled long and hard with both Jeter and Abreu, but just couldnt make the outs.
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith featured in long relief today, as Seattle's starter Miguel Batista was forced to leave the game early with a groin strain. That's the last thing the Mariners need - more pitching injuries. He came into the game in the bottom of the third. He drew a ground out from Donnie Murphy, but then gave up a first pitch single to Daric Barton. Mark Ellis almost grounded into a double play, but the M's made an error and couldnt get the second out. RRS struck out Carlos Gonzalez and then drew a ground out from Ryan Sweeney. He returned in the fourth. He got a 1-3 ground out from Jack Cust but then gave up four hits in a row. Wes Bankston singled to centrefield on a 2-2 curveball. RRS threw nothing but fastballs to Kurt Suzuki, and he singled on a full count. Jack Hanahan then singled to right on the first pitch fastball. RRS went to his changeup for the first pitch against Donnie Murphy, but he slapped it down the left field line for a double, and scoring three runs. This prompted a visit to the mound, but RRS was left in the game. He then walked Daric Barton, and was replaced by Roy Corcoran. It seemed he had a bit less zip than he had in his previous two outings, perhaps because he was pitching on only 2 days rest after his longest outing of the year? Hopefully there are no injury concerns and he can bounce back quickly. Luckily, the M's offence bounced back in the fifth, scoring 5 runs. It is now the top of the 5th with 2 out, and the M's lead 6-4.

Aussie updates (9 July 08)

A couple of bits and pieces in the news today:
  • Grant Balfour pitched today against the Yankees, in a non-save situation. He kept up his hot form. He came in to pitch in the bottom of the 6th inning, with the Rays trailing 2-0. He faced the core of the Yankees top-dollar lineup, and he fared pretty well. He was off to a flyer, striking out Bobby Abreu on an 88mph change/sinker. Next up was the almighty Alex Rodriguez. Balf made short work of him too, striking him out on four pitches. Things didnt go totally according to plan, and Jorge Posada hit a single in the next atbat. But all was ok, as Balf drew a ground into force out from Wilson Betemit. He left the game after this inning, having thrown 11 of his 16 pitches strikes, and regularly hitting 95mph on the radar. The Rays went on to lose 5-0, but they are still 3 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL West.
  • It looks like Ryan Rowland-Smith's time as a starter is over for now. The News Tribune is reporting that he will return to the bullpen this week. The Mariners are fielding injuries to key pitchers Erik Bedard, Felix Hernandez and JJ Putz, so there is likely to be some more tinkering going on in their roster in coming weeks. Meanwhile, RRS has posted another blog talking a bit about his second outing, check it out at prolebrity.com.
  • Phil Stockman, who hasnt pitched since being returned to AAA Richmond Braves, is recovering from a strained left hamstring

Jul 7, 2008

Wrap up from Rowland-Smith's second start

Well, if you thought that Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal was the only epic sporting contest of the last 24 hours, you'd be wrong. There were also 2 epic contests in MLB, one of which featured Ryan Rowland-Smith. It took the Mariners and the Tigers 15 innings to sort out their game, while the Astros and Braves played a 17 inning marathon!

As you might have read below, it was a pretty solid performance from Rowland-Smith. All things considered, to hold the Detroit Tigers to 1 run over 5 innings is a pretty good effort. And the Tigers had their opportunities too. They had baserunners on in scoring position in both the first and second innings, but were unable to convert them to runs. Ryan had good support from the field, but did a commendable job of getting back on top. He managed to bounce back and get through the 4th and 5th innings pretty effectively.

Once Ryan left the game, with the score tied at 1-1, things got a bit interesting. The Tigers' starter Nate Robertson went 9 innings, throwing only 100 pitches. Rowland-Smith's mates from the bullpen did a valiant job to back up his performance, Mark Lowe threw 1 inning, Roy Corcoran threw 2, Miguel Batista and Sean Green threw 1 a piece, and Cesar Jiminez threw 4 innings of hitless ball. By then it was the 15th inning. Considering that the bullpen had effectively thrown the entire game, things were starting to get a bit sketchy for the Mariners. The Mariners' interim manger Jim Riggleman was running out of options.

"I had a couple guys come to me and say, 'Hey, skip, I can pitch,'" Riggleman told MLB.com. "A couple position players -- Bloomquist, [third baseman Adrian] Beltre. But [R.A.] Dickey threw 100-and-plus pitches yesterday and he said, 'Let me see if I can get loose' ". But eventually, Riggleman settled with backup catcher Jamie Burke on the mound. Apparently he pitched pretty well, but he was unable to prevent the Tigers from scoring a run on a sac fly in the top of the 15th. The Mariners were unable to rein in the run in the bottom of the dig, and the game ended up with the Tigers winning 2-1.

So what next for Rowland-Smith? In his two starts he has posted the following figures:
  • 8.2 innings pitched
  • 9 hits
  • 4 walks
  • 4 earned runs
  • 3 strikeouts
  • 4.15 ERA and 1.50 WHIP

The Mariners rotation problems continue to plague them. Erik Bedard has been scratched from another start, and Felix Hernandez is still not ready to return yet. Rowland-Smith's ERA of 4.15 as a starter (2.92 season total) is better than three of the Mariners' five recognised starting pitchers (Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard are doing better than 4.15, with 2.83 and 3.67 respectively, while Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista are all posting ERAs greater than 5.00).

Obviously he has had a heck of a lot less starting appearances than these guys, but he has been consistently effective all year. Right through spring training. He has cleaned up after poor outings from Silva , Washburn, and Dickey, and has shown versatility, toughness, and consistency. Both games he has started for the Mariners have been quite stirring team performances. While he hasnt been awarded with a win yet, the team did beat the Blue Jays in his first outing, and today's performance was certainly a remarkable one, with some great defensive plays and desire to pitch in to try and get the win. I definitely dont want to jinx things for Rowland-Smith, but I reckon the Mariners should show some faith in him and let him join the rotation.

Since the management changes that have occurred of late, the Mariners have been a somewhat different outfit. They have won 7 of their last 10 games. There seems to be a new energy at the club. This season really seems to be done and dusted for the M's as far as making the playoffs is concerned. They have the worst record in the American League and are third behind the Padres (poor old Padres) and the Washington Nationals when it comes to the worst record in MLB. They have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by blooding some youngsters. They have found a good one in Felix Hernandez, and Ryan Rowland-Smith is starting to show more and more potential every time he picks up the ball. He has shown that he wants to be a starter, and he has delivered the goods whenever he gets the chance. I think that the Mariners really ought to chuck him into the rotation for the rest of the season and let him have a shot. The biggest con for them would be losing his effectiveness out of the bullpen.

What do you think?

Ryan Rowland-Smith's second start: live comments

Ryan Rowland-Smith has begun his second start. Here's a summary of the game :

Top 1st

  • RRS battled Curtis Granderson for six pitches, throwing plenty of strikes and getting some fouls, before drawing a groundout to second.
  • Placido Polanco took the first pitch for a strike, before smacking the second to left field for a double.
  • He got ahead of Carlos Guillen with his first pitch strike, and drew a pop out to 1st on his 1-1 changeup.
  • He walked Miguel Cabrera after battling for nine pitches
  • Marcus Thames came out swinging and missing at Ryan's heat, before grounding into a forceout at third on 1-2 curveball to end the inning.

Not a bad start from Ryan, he started off pretty much where he left off after his last start; throwing plenty of strikes and getting ahead early in the count. 18 of his 25 pitches so far are strikes, and he bounced back well after giving up the hit and walking Cabrera; which probably ended up a pretty good move. Next dig he'll face Ivan Rodriguez, Edgar Renteria and Clete Thomas.

Top 2nd

  • Ivan Rodriguez fouled off the first two pitches before slapping a weak line drive to left field for a single
  • Edgar Renteria smacked his first pitch into shallow center on a hit run play. Willie Bloomquist busted in hard to take the catch and save the day
  • Clete Thomas went down on strikes, swinging and missing at a 76mph curveball to notch up RRS's first strikeout of the game
  • Ryan Raburn walked on four pitches, with a pickoff attempt in the midst
  • Curtis Granderson came up for his second at bat, and took the first pitch for a ball. Rowland-Smith came back at him with a curveball for a strike, before missing inside with a changeup. At 2-1 he threw a breaking ball that missed low. He drew a foul down the first base line to take the count to 3-2. Ryan missed again and walked him.
  • Placido Polanco was the victim of an outstanding play by third baseman Adrian Beltre. He smacked a grounder down the line, and it looked like it was going to score some runs, but Beltre made a great stop and threw Polanco out at first to end the inning.

Ryan has continued to throw plenty of strikes, but that inning nearly got away from him. He was saved by two very solid defensive plays. I guess that's a nice luxury in the bigs, you have a team that is going to take every opportunity they get to make an out. His pitch count is up to 45, which is probably a lot higher than he would have liked to be at at this point.

Top 3rd

It would be nice if he could get some support from his team in the batter's box as well as in the field. They only forced Nate Robertson to throw eight pitches in the second.

  • He began effectively, throwing a first pitch strike to Carlos Guillen, before another spectacular defensive play got him out. He lined one at third, Adrian Beltre deflected it to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who threw him out.
  • Ryan got to 2-2 against Miguel Cabrera, who then grounded out to third.
  • Marcus Thames struck out on a foul tip.

Good inning. Very good inning. Ryan got back on top and showed good control of his fastball and changeup. He only threw 12 pitches, so is up to 57.

The Mariners got a couple of hits and scored a run in the bottom of the third, giving Ryan a 1-0 lead to protect. Good stuff.

Top 4th

Like the 2nd, he'll face Ivan Rodriguez, Edgar Renteria and Clete Thomas.

  • Ryan punched the first pitch in for a strike, before giving up another hit to Ivan Rodriguez, this time to shallow centre.
  • Edgar Renteria flew out to left field on the second pitch.
  • Clete Thomas flew out to right field on a 1-2 curveball, courtesy of another neat defensive play, this time from Ichiro.
  • While Ryan Raburn was batting, Rowland-Smith made two attempts at picking off Pudge Rodriguez. When he went to the plate and Rodriguez ran, Kenji Johjima threw him out at second to end the inning.

This is exciting stuff. The Mariners are playing good baseball today, giving Ryan a lot of support. So far we have had two great catches, two very nice infield plays, and now a caught steal. Ryan should be feeling pretty good out there. He's now up to 69 pitches, 46 of them strikes. Word before the game was that he would be given 80. So he should come out in the 5th, if he can get through it he will be in line to take the win should the Mariners hold on.

Top 5th

  • Ryan Raburn got to a full count before smacking a big homerun to left field on a high fastball. This prompted the Mariner's bullpen to action.
  • Curtis Granderson smacked a hard single to right.
  • Rowland-Smith battled to get back on top, getting behind 2-0 against Placido Polanco, before throwing a strike. Polanco then flew out to left on a hard hit fly ball.
  • Carlos Guillen stepped in and took the first pitch for a ball. He hit a broken bat single to third but the M's got the force out of Granderson at second.
  • Miguel Cabrera popped up to shallow right field.

Ryan went 5 innings, and threw 86 pitches. That will probably be it for him today, but it was a strong outing. 5 hits, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts and 1 earned run. It'd be awesome if the Mariners hitters can come out in the bottom of the fifth and re-claim that lead for Ryan to take a win.

Bottom 5th

That was optimistic. The Mariners came out and were retired in order off 6 pitches. Not sure yet if Ryan will continue, but it doesnt look like he will. So he will be in line for a no-decision.

Top 6th

Mark Lowe replaced Ryan Rowland-Smith.

Jul 6, 2008

Bits and pieces, RRS second start

Baseball Radio National has just launched a forum where you can discuss local and international baseball. You can find it at Baseball Radio National's website.

Ryan Rowland-Smith is scheduled to start against the Detroit Tigers tomorrow. He has a good record against them this year, striking out 3 and not giving up any hits in 3.2 innings of work. Sounds like he is missing hanging out in the bullpen, but he is focused on trying to do well as a starter. ''It's a big opportunity for me to show that I can do that,' and hopefully it leads on to more opportunities", he said in a report on MLB.com.

The game starts at 6.10am Sydney time, and we will be doing a live in-game commentary. Be sure to check by

Aussie Updates (6 Jul 08)

Grant Balfour picked up another save today (his third for the season), as the Rays beat the Kansas City Royals 3-0. He regularly clocked 95-96mph, and struck out Jose Guillen and Billy Butler. His numbers in recent times are impressive. In his 10 games between 10 Jun and 10 July he has:

  • a record of 2-0, with 2 saves
  • pitched 15 innings, giving up only 5 hits and 6 walks (WHIP of 0.73)
  • he has allowed only 2 earned runs, for an ERA of 1.17 (and those 2 runs were given up back on 5 Jun against the Red Sox, since that game he has not given up an earned run
  • he has struck out 23, which is an average of 1.5 per inning.

These numbers speak for themselves. Balf has been hot this year. He was hot during spring training but was unlucky not to make it to the Rays opening day roster. He went to AAA Durham and was nearly unhittable. Since his call up in late May he has worked hard to show he deserves his spot in the pen. He has been versatile; featuring as a long reliever at times, but it seems he has found his calling as a closer, and he is starting to get noticed (at least among fantasy leagues) as a closer with some real potential. This sort of exciting baseball is just the sort of thing that should be making our Australian sports news. Wham-bam, thank you for coming, one inning, 2 strikeouts and a save, lets get out of here. If the free TV networks here cant squeeze that into their bulletins there is a real problem. Anyway, enough of the rant, good work Balf, keep it up.

Jul 5, 2008

Rowland-Smith enters the blogosphere

How cool is this? Ryan Rowland-Smith has started his own blog! You can read his thoughts about his first MLB start, and can leave a comment direct to the man. Check it out; it will be awesome if he keeps posting through the rest of the season.

In other RRS news, he is scheduled to start the game on Sunday against the Tigers. His form against them this year has been excellent. He announced on his blog that he will be given 80 pitches in this outing, so he will have a real chance to go the 5 digs required to notch up a win - assuming the M's offense can produce some runs. He'll face up against Nate Robertson, who is boasting a 5+ ERA at the moment. Fingers crossed it will all go well. The game will start at about 6.10am Sydney time, and we will be sure to be listening in.

Jul 3, 2008

Listen to RRS breakdown his performance

Thanks to KOMO News, you can hear a short bit of Ryan Rowland-Smith talking about his performance yesterday. If there is one clear thing to come out of it, i think it would be that he wanted to slow it down!

Jul 2, 2008

Watch highlights of Balf's save

They will probably take this down quicker than an Aussie closer taking down the Red Sox, so act quick, watch the highlights of Grant Balfour's ninth inning against the Red Sox yesterday:

Aussie Updates - Balf makes front page of MLB.com; RRS effective as M's win

Grant Balfour made it to the front page of MLB.com! See it here:

There is also a good article recognising his awesome effort today. You gotta love Balf's approach to the game. He said 'I'll be honest, I love going out there in the ninth inning. I loved going out there tonight. If [Maddon] gives me that opportunity, I'll be more than welcome to take it. Whatever helps the team win....I'm pretty fiery. Just the way I am, I fire myself up. I'm talking to myself out there. That's how I like to be'

It's all good stuff. We love it. Keep up the good work Balf. Hopefully he can get out there and blow away some more Red Sox tomorrow!

Meanwhile, Ryan Rowland-Smith did a pretty good job in his first major league start. He cruised through the first 3 innings against the Blue Jays. He threw stacks of strikes, and was looking real good. He ran into a bit of trouble in the third though, after giving up a hit and a walk and a hit by pitch. He let in 3 runs that inning and was then pulled. His line for the day was 3.2 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, and his season ERA is now back up to 3.05. All in all he did plenty well. The Mariner's couldnt have asked for much more, and he certainly got a big pat on the back after leaving the game. The Mariners went on to win the game in the 9th, after trailing all game, so it was happy times all round.

Aussie Update - Wow - Balf saves against the Sox

Grant Balfour just recorded a save in front of more than 30,000 incredibly excited Tampa Bay fans. He pitched in the 8th and 9th innings, and dealt with some bloody sticky situations. With the Rays clinging to a 2-1 lead in the top of the 8th, and with runners on 2 and 3 and 2 out, Balf came in to pitch to the hitting monster Manny Ramirez. He got to a full count against Manny, but ended up walking him to load the bases. Never one to shy away from a challenge and a bit of pressure, Balf came through with the goods, to draw a ground out from Mike Lowell and end the inning.

The Rays picked up another run in the bottom of the 8th, to get a bit of insurance at 3-1, and they stuck with Balf in the ninth. The crowd were on their feet, screaming and cheering Grant on. He didnt disappoint them. He started off by striking out Kevin Youkilis on 3 pitches. He then battled Brandon Moss for 7 pitches and struck him out on the 8th. Things got a bit hairy when he gave up a double to Alex Cora, but came back strong and struck out Jason Varitek on 3 pitches.

That is a bloody awesome performance. One of the best Aussie MLB performances for the year, and a very important win for the Rays, giving them a 2.5 game lead in the AL East. Good stuff!!

Jul 1, 2008

Aussie (and Kiwi) Updates: Balf and RRS in action & Futures Game Roster announced

We have been a bit slow on the uptake in the last week or so due to some exceptionally busy things going on. The baseball world never stops though, and both Grant Balfour and Ryan Rowland-Smith have been in the thick of things over the last week.

Balfour has appeared in two games in recent days. He struck out 3 over 2.1 innings against the Pirates on the weekend, and did not allow a hit. Today, he pitched 0.2 innings in the Rays important win over the Red Sox. He came on with runners on 1 and 2, and 1 out in the top of the 7th, with Boston chasing down Tampa’s 4-2 lead. He had Jason Varitek foul out to the catcher, and had Julio Lugo ground out to end the inning. This series against the Red Sox is crucial for the Rays, and it gives them a real chance to take the lead in the AL East! Balfour’s season ERA is now 1.17.

In other Tampa Bay news, their closer Troy Percival left the game today with what his manager thought was a strained hamstring. Bad news for the Rays, but possibly more time in the middle for Balfour. We should know in a few days the extent of the damage, and can assess the impact, if any, on Balfour at that time.

In Seattle, Ryan Rowland-Smith last pitched last Wednesday, when he went 2 innings, allowing no hits and no walks, and striking out one as the Mariners lost to the Mets. There is a reason why he has not pitched since. He is gonna start a game tomorrow. Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez has an ankle injury and is unavailable for his scheduled start tomorrow. The Mariners’ new leadership are turning to the bullpen, led by the effective long-man Ryan Rowland-Smith. He will take the mound to start the M’s game against the Blue Jays tomorrow. It is expected he won’t pitch more than 5 innings, given that his previous high pitch count is only in the 50s. I guess it will depend on how the Jays handle him! It’s kind of an exciting prospect, but a bit daunting at the same time. We wish Ryan all the best for his first MLB start! We will be tuning in for sure.

Meanwhile, in Minor League news, the rosters for the 2008 Futures Game have been announced. 23-year old Luke Hughes from the AA New Britain Rock Cats has been selected to play in the game. The Rock Cats’ third baseman is having a stellar year, hitting .333, with 13 homeruns, and 34 RBI. His OBP is .408, and his OPS is 1.015! This is an amazing stat, as hitters with more than 1.000 OPS are generally considered to be the ‘greats’. Good luck Luke, we will be sure to follow up to see how things go. Also worth mentioning is the one New Zealand born player on the roster – Scott Campbell from the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Good to see the Kiwis getting in amongst it as well!