SYDNEY, Australia - On a possible return to the Major Leagues, Diamondbacks' left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith make a slight detour.
Back to his home country.
Attempting to gain a spot on a big league roster since pitching for the Seattle Mariners in 2010, the Diamondbacks signed Rowland-Smith, a Sydney native, to a spring training invitation.
Impressive this far, Rowland-Smith has made six appearances for the D-backs in spring games with 5.1 innings of work. In the process, he's allowed just three hits, one unearned run and sports a 0.00 ERA.
If anyone was happy about a grueling, trans-Pacific flight, it was Rowland-Smith, whose wit, charm and love of baseball and his country is contagious.
During the 14 hour journey from Sky Harbor to Sydney, Rowland-Smith entertained the Diamondbacks traveling party with talk of his country, how to speak "Australian," what to see and do in his home town and generally spread enthusiasm.
"For me growing up here and attending so many different sports events in this building, it was definitely cool to see it turned into a baseball field," he said leaning against the D-backs dugout at the venerated Sydney Cricket Ground. "People here know baseball and this is not the first time a game has been played here."
The reference is to the Diamondbacks opening series this weekend with two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. As well, the Diamondbacks have an exhibition game Friday against Team Australia.
That's where Rowland-Smith's sense of geography comes into play.
On Thursday night, he suited up for Team Australia and pitched one inning against the Dodgers. On Friday night, he will switch uniforms, don Sedona Red and go against his home country.
"A bit bizarre, don't you think," he smiled. "I've never been thrown against Australia before so it will be a different experience."
On Wednesday, former major leaguer, native Australian and current Diamondbacks front office executive Craig Shipley, who is serving as a Team Australia executive, told reporters Rowland-Smith would pitch one inning against the Dodgers. At the same time, Shipley did not discount the notion that Rowland-Smith could come back the next night and pitch for Arizona.
In the game Thursday, Rowland-Smith entered the contest in the fourth inning with Team Australia holding a 1-0 lead.
In order, the 30 year-old had Adrain Gonzalez to fly to right, struck our Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe flied to center.
One-two-three, rather simple.
Not so easy for his teammates.
Team Australia held a 2-0 lead and limited the Dodgers one hit into the eighth inning. With two outs and a runner on first in that frame, Yasiel Puig smashed a two-run homer over the left field fence to tie matters and the Dodgers proceeded to score two additional runs, both unearned, and manufactured a 4-2 victory.
After his one inning effort Thursday night, exit Rowland-Smith. Combined with the D-backs and Team Australia, his spring ERA remains a strong 0.00.
If Rowland-Smith has been impressive this spring, he probably did not impress the Diamondbacks enough to secure spot on the 25 man roster.
Earlier this month, general manager Kevin Towers signed 32 year-old veteran lefty Oliver Perez to a two-year, $4.25 million contract. With lefty reliever Joe Thatcher on the bubble to make the team, Perez will likely represent the left-handed arm in the bullpen.
That would also put Rowland-Smith possibly back on the street. Out of the majors for the past three years, he's attempted a return to the big league level with Houston, the Cubs, Boston and now Arizona.
"I think I've had a great spring but, at the same time, I realize what they did was a business decision," he said in reference to the Perez addition. "That's out of my control. My plan now is to get back to the big leagues."
OPENING NIGHT STARTER SPEAKS
The Dodgers will open the season on Saturday with left-hander Clayton Kershaw, a two-time Cy Young award winner.
That's not to mention the seven year, $215 million contract the Dallas, Tex. native signed in the recent off-season. For now, Kershaw would rather focus on being the Dodgers' Opening Day starter on Saturday at the Sydney Cricket Ground than talk of his expanded wallet.
Coming into the opener, Kershaw is 7-6 lifetime against the D-backs and, though he's pitched well at Chase Field, the Diamondbacks seem to challenge.
"They're a very good team and can hit," Kershaw said Thursday afternoon during a media session. "(First baseman Paul) Goldschmidt is a tough out. He proved it last year. He's pretty consistent and you have to keep him off-balance. To a hitter like that, I try and mix it up."
Coming into his Opening Day assignment, Kershaw is 77-46 in 182 starts, all with the Dodgers. That includes ERAs of 2.28 in 2011 and 1.83 last season. Overall, he has 11 career shutouts, two, two-hitters and a career ERA of 2.60.