M's finally diagnose Rowland-Smith's 'injury'

After the Mariners' latest debacle -- in which Ryan Rowland-Smith gave up 11 runs in five innings -- Geoff Baker took us into the locker room:

Rowland-Smith allowed a team record-tying 11 runs tonight and it wasn't pretty watching him fight through five innings to spare his bullpen some work. I've used some boxing and basketball analogies to describe it in my game story and wasn't trying to be cute. The beating was that bad. Almost every pitch Rowland-Smith threw was up in the zone and getting jackhammered.

Afterwards, he was as down as I've ever seen him. He knew how much was riding on this game. And he knows how poorly he performed.

"I was working on some stuff,'' he said. "Some was good, some was bad. I'm still working.''


Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair just could not explain why all the mechanical adjustments Rowland-Smith seems to be perfecting in the bullpen are not carrying over into games.

"if we could answer that question we wouldn't be having this conversation,'' Adair said. "It's been unbelievable the progress he's made, the adjustments he's made. The command, all four pitches. The side work. And right now, it's just not translating into the game.

"I feel bad for the guy because he's really working hard, preparing hard, gaining an understanding of things,'' Adair said. "It's frustrating. I was looking probably as forward to this start tonight as I have any since I've been here.''

Adair said there are so many adjustments Rowland-Smith has made that it's tough to describe it all. The goal is to ge more of an angle to his pitches, but "as good as he is in his sidework, it just hasn't translated into a game.''

Going forward, Adair said he'd still vouch for Rowland-Smith.

"Honestly, I believe in what the kid is doing,'' he said.

But that's not enough.

Sometime during the All-Star break, I thought about coming up with a list of starters who probably shouldn't be starters. Not at the moment, anyway. Somehow I forgot the idea and never actually came up with the whole list, but Rowland-Smith was the inspiration; at the break, he was 1-9 with a 5.89 ERA.

Three starts (and three Seattle losses) later, he's 1-10, 6.96.

All those wonderful adjustments and command and four pitches aside, the M's had to finally do something and so they have: He's going on the DL with a "lower back strain."

This is probably a phantom injury. As Scott Webber points out, Rowland-Smith's out of options and the Mariners don't want to expose him to waivers. Considering his (relative) success as a reliever, they might lose him for nothing. Which brings up a question: Why didn't they just send him back to the bullpen? If not last month, why not now?

The sample sizes aren't large, but Rowland-Smith's career strikeout rate as a reliever is nearly double his strikeout rate as a starter. Some guys just aren't cut from starter cloth, and this guy's career numbers suggest he might be one of them.