Ryan Benjamin Rowland-Smith
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 3", Weight 205 lb.
- High School Newcastle (NSW) High School
- Debut June 22, 2007
- Final Game April 14, 2014
Ryan Rowland-Smith made history as he had the first hyphenated surname ever in MLB. Gary Miller-Jones had played five years in AAA in the 1980s, never to make it into a big league game. Rowland-Smith has pitched for Australia in the Olympics, helping them to a Silver Medal.
2001-2004: Early Career
Rowland-Smith was signed by scout Barry Holland for the Seattle Mariners at age 17. He debuted professionally with the 2001 AZL Mariners, going 1-1 with a 2.97 ERA and five saves. He fanned 39 in 33 1/3 IP. He pitched for the Australian national team in the 2001 Baseball World Cup, allowing two runs in two innings of work. In 2002, Rowland-Smith pitched 12 games (8 starts) for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, going 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA. He was then demoted to the Everett AquaSox, where his line read 4-1, 2.77 with two saves in 18 games (six starts). He finished 9th in the Northwest League in ERA.
In 2003, the 20-year-old moved full-time to the bullpen. He made the conversion very well. For Wisconsin, he went 3-0 with a save and 1.11 ERA, allowing a .181 average and fanning 37 in 32 1/3 IP. Moving up to the Inland Empire 66ers, the southpaw was 0-1 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 outings. Opponents batted .181 there as well. He made the Midwest League mid-season All-Star team.
Rowland-Smith was a starter (12 games) and reliever (17 games) for Inland Empire in 2004. He went 5-3 with 3 saves and a 3.79 ERA. He struck out 119 in just 99 2/3 IP. He tied Juan Sandoval for 7th among Mariners minor leaguers in strikeouts. Had he qualified, he would have ranked 5th in the California League in ERA.
2004: Olympic Stardom
Rowland-Smith pitched for Australia in the 2004 Olympics. On August 17, he pitched the 9th, walking one, to conclude a one-hitter started by Chris Oxspring against the Italian national team. A day later, Rowland-Smith relieved in the sixth after Phil Stockman and Graeme Lloyd fell behind Japan 4-3. Ryan allowed the Japanese squad to load the bases (two hits, one walk) but escaped the inning unscathed. Hits by Brett Roneberg, David Nilsson, Brendan Kingman and Thomas Brice and a Shinya Miyamoto error put Australia up 6-4 in the top of the 7th. Jeff Williams tossed three scoreless innings to wrap it up and Rowland-Smith got credit for the victory; Daisuke Miura copped the loss. On June 20, the left-hander was back in the saddle once more. He entered in the sixth against Greece with a surprising 5-3 deficit. Roneberg again started a rally to tie the score then the Aussies pounded on five more in the seventh. Rowland-Smith allowed a home run in the 8th. Overall, it was the only run he allowed in 2 1/3 IP as he again notched a win.
In the Gold Medal game, Ryan relieved with Australia trailing Cuba 6-1 after John Stephens had been hammered. The reliever shut down the international powerhouse, blanking them for three innings on two hits and a walk, fanning two. Australia didn't rally this time, though, depriving Rowland-Smith of his third victory. Australia still had won a Silver Medal.
Overall, Rowland-Smith had gone 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in the 2004 Olympics. He had allowed six hits and five walks in 7 1/3 IP, fanning five. He tied Oxspring for the team lead in wins; only Adiel Palma won more contests in the Olympics that year.
Rowland-Smith was claimed by the Minnesota Twins in the 2004 Rule V Draft but returned to Seattle on March 25, 2005. Assigned to the San Antonio Missions, he went 6-7 with a 4.35 ERA in another swingman role, missing some time due to tendonitis. Rowland-Smith was on the Australian roster for the 2006 World Baseball Classic originally but a left elbow strain sidelined him. He was replaced by Josh Hill and was out until early June. He had a 0-1, 5.68 record for Inland Empire on a rehab stint then was 1-3 with four saves and a 2.83 ERA in 23 contests for the San Antonio Missions, striking out 48 in 41 1/3 IP. He then was with the Peoria Javelinas, going 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 15 innings in the Arizona Fall League as Peoria's most-used reliever (12 games).
2007-2010: Pitching in MLB
Rowland-Smith began 2007 with the Tacoma Rainiers and went 3-4 with one save and a 3.86 ERA in 24 games, striking out 47 in 39 2/3 IP and allowing a .223 average. When Cha Seung Baek went on the Disabled List in late June, Rowland-Smith was called up to take his spot on the staff.
In his major league debut with the Mariners on June 22, 2007, Rowland-Smith relieved Jason Davis in the 6th inning of a 16-1 laugher against the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out Ken Griffey Jr., the first batter he faced in The Show, making a nice debut as the first player in MLB history with a hyphenated last name. He tossed a scoreless 7th as well, allowing an Adam Dunn single, before leaving the contest in favor of Sean Green. He went on to pitch 26 games that first season, all in relief, with 1 win and a 3.96 ERA in 38 2/3 innings. He struck over a batter an inning, with 42 Ks and only 15 walks allowed. He followed that with a couple more decent seasons with the Mariners. In 2008, he went 5-3, 3.42 as a swingman. 12 of his 42 appearances were starts and he struck out 77 batters in 77 1/3 innings. In 2009, all 15 of his outings were starts, and his record was 5-4, 3.74 in 96 1/3 innings. All three seasons, his ERA+ was above 110.
However, everything came crashing down in 2010, as his record was a terrible 1-10, reflecting how poorly he had pitched: his ERA shot up to 6.75, he gave up 141 hits in 109 1/3 innings, struck out only 44 batters and walked 44. He was a regular starter until the end of July but was sent down to AAA at that point, and came back to 5 relief appearances in September, with little more success. Despite his somewhat limited time, he still tied for 7th in the 2010 AL in homers allowed at 25. Even at Tacoma, things weren't particularly smooth, as in 6 starts he was 2-4 with a 5.11 ERA.
2011-2014: Making it back (if briefly)
Rowland-Smith became a free agent following his dreadful 2010 season and signed with the Houston Astros. He was assigned to the AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks, but continued to struggle, to the tune of a 2-10 record and a 6.19 ERA in 22 games. He was injured for part of the season and made a rehab stint with the GCL Astros in late July. He was 10th in the 2011 PCL in losses. The Astros were not particularly impressed with his season, and he changed organization again in 2012, moving to the Chicago Cubs. He did a lot better than the previous two years with the Iowa Cubs, but his record was still unimpressive at 3-6 in 30 games, including 8 starts. However, he had managed to lower his ERA back to a respectable level, 3.94.
He was with the Australian national team for the first time in seven years. In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, he made his first appearance in a 4-1 loss to Taiwan. Relieving Brendan Wise with two outs in the 7th, he fanned Ssu-Chi Chou before being replaced by Andrew Russell in the 8th. He also pitched in Australia's last game, a 6-0 defeat at the hands of South Korea. He relieved Matthew Williams in the 8th with two on, two out and a 5-0 deficit. He walked Yong-kyu Lee and retired Keun-woo Jeong to end the inning. In the 9th, he gave up singles to Seung-yeop Lee and Dae-ho Lee then retired Hyun-soo Kim and Jung Choi on grounders, the latter one scoring Seung-yeop Lee. Jun-woo Jeon flew out to end that inning.
He moved again in 2013, this time pitching in the Boston Red Sox system, with the Pawtucket Red Sox. He had a very good season as a full-time long man out of the bullpen, making 37 appearances with a record of 7-0, 1.55 and one save while pitching 52 1/3 innings. He allowed only 37 hits and struck out 45. Under other circumstances, he would likely have been getting another look in the majors, but the Red Sox were on their way to winning the 2013 World Series and were not auditioning pitchers at the major league level that season.
Ryan changed organizations again before the 2014 season, joining the Arizona Diamondbacks. There was one major bonus attached to that choice of teams, as MLB had designated the D-Backs and Los Angeles Dodgers to open the season in his birth city of Sydney on March 22-23. Not only did he get to accompany the team down under, but he wore the Australian national team's uniform for an exhibition game against the Dodgers, and then moved over to the Arizona squad when the Aussies faced his current team the following day. He pitched a perfect inning for Australia against the Dodgers on March 20th, but did not play when the D-Backs faced Australia the next day, as they were saving him for possible use in one of the two regular season games. However, he was not used in either game, even though manager Kirk Gibson used 9 different relievers in the two contests.
Rowland-Smith did get into six early-season games for Arizona, with 9 strikeouts and 5 runs (4 earned) in 7 1/3 innings. Let go, he also spent time with the Toronto Blue Jays' Buffalo Bisons affiliate (1-0, 5.14 in 12 G) and the Cincinnati Reds' Louisville Bats (4.20 ERA in 12 G). In the winter, he was 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA for the Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican League.
2015: The rest of the road
When no major league club picked him up for 2015, Rowland-Smith signed with Taiwan's EDA Rhinos, going 1-4 with a 4.70 ERA. He pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings in the winter for the Gigantes del Cibao. He then appeared for Australia in the 2017 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, relieving Warwick Saupold with a 3-1 lead over South Africa in the 4th and working three shutout innings (3 K, 0 BB, hits to Rowan Ebersohn and Anthony Phillips) before Todd Van Steensel relieved. Australia won a spot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
- Steve Gilbert: "Rowland-Smith excited for busy week in Australia: Lefty will pitch for Team Australia vs. Dodgers, then for D-backs vs. national team", mlb.com, March 13, 2014.