Rowland-Smith excited for busy week in Australia
Lefty will pitch for Team Australia vs. Dodgers, then for D-backs vs. national team
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ryan Rowland-Smith figures to be a busy man next week both on and off the field.
The Australian-born left-hander will pitch for Team Australia on Thursday against the Dodgers, and then Friday he will pitch for the D-backs against Team Australia. Those two exhibition games will take place just before the D-backs and Dodgers open the regular season March 22-23 in Sydney, Australia.
"Honestly, I told my wife I think it's going to be overwhelming for me once it happens," Rowland-Smith said.
Rowland-Smith, 31, was born in Sydney and raised two hours north in New Castle and has family and friends there.
"To see my friends and family and pitch in my backyard is special," Rowland-Smith said.
Rowland-Smith wore the Team Australia jersey in the 2004 Summer Olympics and came home with a silver medal. He also played for Australia in the World Baseball Classic in '06 and '09.
"Anyone who gets to represent their country it's a special thing," Rowland-Smith said. "That's more than just a team, that's a country. We won a silver medal and that's the most pride I've ever felt, and that always sticks in my mind every time I get to put that jersey on, because that was a special time for me."
The D-backs signed Rowland-Smith to a Minor League contract last November that included a Spring Training invite.
Originally signed by the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent in 2000, Rowland-Smith appeared in 115 games (47 starts) over parts of four seasons with Seattle. His last big league appearance came in 2010.
"I heard last year that there was going to be a Major League game in Australia and I thought, 'That's great,'" Rowland-Smith said. "It took me a little bit to put two and two together. I was talking to the Diamondbacks about signing as a free agent, and this is a place that I had heard from friends that had played here was a great organization, so I was really hoping it was going to work out. And then I was like, 'Wait a second, they're going to Australia, and that could be the icing on the cake for me. If I could make the team and go to Australia, that would be awesome.'"
It might be a stretch for Rowland-Smith to make the Opening Day roster given Arizona's crowded bullpen, but he certainly has pitched well so far this spring.
In 4 2/3 innings spread over five appearances, he has allowed three hits and one unearned run.
"I came into Spring Training with a plan to show these guys who'd never seen me pitch before," Rowland-Smith said. "I was very well prepared coming into Spring Training and I'm sticking with the process -- it's been working out."
Keeping his focus on the process has been a challenge for Rowland-Smith, especially after he heard that he was going to be pitching in Australia.
"I had been getting emails from Australian baseball and they were asking me if I was going to be pitching for them, and I said it was not up to me," Rowland-Smith said. "They contacted the D-backs, and that's when they told me that even if I wasn't on the roster I would be going. It's so exciting. Ever since I found out about it, I've been trying to push it out of my mind, because I've told people I'm here to try and pitch in the big leagues, so I've been concentrating on that."
The exhibition and regular-season games will take place at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which is loaded with history.
Though the stadium has recently been renovated, the old grandstands still remain, blending the historic with the modern.
"I remember going there as a kid, and it's a beautiful place," Rowland-Smith said. "It's changed a lot. I'm looking forward to seeing it."
He's also looking forward to seeing his home country.
"It's a beautiful city," Rowland-Smith said of Sydney. "I've been doing this and flying home for 13 years, and every time I fly in, it just puts a smile on my face, because it's a beautiful city. It's unique, it's beautiful."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.