Rowland-Smith glad to get a new start in Houston

February 18, 2011 11:34:37 AM PST
After a 2010 debacle for himself and his team, pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith needed a new start. He is getting one with the Houston Astros. The 28-year-old lefty couldn't be much farther away from his Australian roots, from the American League or from Arizona, where he trained with the Seattle Mariners for four springs.

Some adjustment will be required, and Rowland-Smith welcomes it.

"I have to give myself at least a week to settle in," he said Friday. "You've got a whole new front office, coaches, players. It's all brand-new. It feels like I'm starting rookie ball again, you know?"

Rowland-Smith, who signed a one-year, $725,000 contract on Dec. 10, is a serious candidate to make the Astros' starting rotation after a season in which he want 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA.

"The Mariners made an offer and I ultimately turned it down. It was more brand-new to me to be a free agent," he said. "I did my research the best I could, and from what I heard from certain people, this is a positive environment to be in."

Which is a long way from Seattle, where he started the 2010 season in a rotation with Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. A popular choice to win the AL West, the Mariners went 61-101.

Rowland-Smith's 20 starts were major components of the downfall. "There were a few outside factors, but the only person I'm going to point fingers at is myself," he said. "I had a couple rough ones early in the year and I really let it get to me. I started really questioning (myself). I was trying to search for the answers and I started doubting what got me to the big leagues." Before last season, he had a 3.82 lifetime ERA and had given up 8.5 hits per nine innings. Last year he gave up 11.6 hits per nine innings.

Whether the difference was mechanical, mental or some combination is something the Astros have yet to determine. Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said he will simply watch Rowland-Smith on the mound for at least a couple of weeks before getting analytical. He acknowledged that a pitcher's frame of mind is critical.

"They can go out and make 78 good pitches out of 85, and sometimes all they remember is they gave up a double and a two-run homer," Arnsberg said. "But what about the other 78 you've got to give yourself credit for?"

Fortunately for Rowland-Smith, he had a pretty good record before 2010, and that's why he is here.

"We'll put him in the mix because of the success he has had at the major league level," manager Brad Mills said. "We know that he has capability and it's important that a guy can look back at that success."

Even if he has to look back more than a year.

"(The season) started off bad and I just never recovered," Rowland-Smith said. "Essentially I got away from what got me to the big leagues and that was competing. I'm not going to throw 100 mph, but to me it's always been about competing, and I lost that." He will try to get it back in a new city and a new league.

"I'm just trying to compete and fight for a spot in the rotation, and see where it gets me," he said.

NOTES: Position players are due in camp Saturday for Sunday's first full-squad workout. Mills said he has been given no indication that any player will be absent.