The Mariners sure could use some positive vibes from their starting pitchers, and they certainly got a booster shot from lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith today.
With the loss of Cliff Lee expected to linger well into April because of a strained abdominal muscle — which basically has been a kick in the stomach for the entire organization — guys like Rowland-Smith need to step up big time.
He held the Cubs, who came into the Cactus League game with a .288 team batting average, to five hits and one run over seven superb innings in a 1-0 loss to the Cubs.
“He is such a competitor that he gets so worked up some times that he starts rushing and his arm drags.” manager Don Wakamatsu explained. “In the one inning he gave up a run, left a couple of pitches up, but overall, it was night and day for me as far as emotionally and the way he went about his business. I was pleased.”
Rowland-Smith needed just 77 pitches over seven innings and went to the bullpen afterwards to throw 15 more pitches before calling it a day.
Rowland-Smith said “it was good. Like I say afer every outing, it’s a progression in Spring Training. You slowly chip away and chip away. My last outing and this outing felt like my command is where I want it to be. The difference today was I had better command inside and threw changeup a little more.”
The lad from Down Under said he has been working hard on controlling his emotions, which he was able to do against the Cubs.
Asked about how close his is ready for his first regular season start, which will come during the four-game series against the Athletics, he said: “Close, I think. My preparation the day before the game is getting better. Like I said today, I did a better job of getting the ball inside and my changeup was better and those are things I need to be ready. Another thing I did today was controlling my emotions. Give up a hit now and then, take a deep breath and keep up a good rhythm.”
Rowland-Smith said “you don’t want to let perfect get in the way of being good,” which means it’s okay to surrender a few hits and perhaps even a run or two.
“When you try to make perfect pitches all the time, it’s not going to happen. I am better off taking deep breaths and not showing emotions as much.”
Rowland-Smith said he has started thinking about the Athletics lineup to prepare for his first start.
Which of the four games he’ll start remains undecided. That will be decided on Thursday, either before or after the Mariners end the Arizona segment of Spring Training with a home game against the White Sox.
The way he pitched today, don’t be surprised if he follows right-hander Felix Hernandez.
In other developments:
— Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez left the game in the sixth inning because of stomach discomfort. As it turned out, he would have batted with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh inning. Instead, Minor League infielder Mario Martinez came to bat against Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster and struck out. Dempster also struck out Matt Tuiasosopo and Adam Moore to end the inning.
— Moore made a tremendous throw to second in the ninth to nail a potentional basestealer Sam Fuld.”He showed his arm strength on that one,” Wakamatsu said. “You could hang your laundry on that line.”
Moore showed no ill-effects from getting hit by a line drive just above his left ankle in Saturday’s game while on third base.
“There was no reaction time at all,” he said of the ball Mike Sweeney hit. “I can’t recall even one time getting smoked when I was on third base. That ball was crushed. I saw it all the way and did everything I could to get out of the way, even the splits like a cheerleader. But it didn’t work out for me. At first it hurt pretty bad. It’s a good thing I have some ‘ups’.”
“Yeah, I jumped two inches off the ground, which is about my limit.”
— Jim Street