SYDNEY (AP) — Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith is being pulled in two directions this week as Major League Baseball prepares for its season-opening series at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Make that two different teams.
The Sydney-born 31-year-old left-hander will suit up for Team Australia in Thursday night's exhibition game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, then pitch against his national team on Friday night when the Diamondbacks play the Australians.
Hanging in the balance is a spot on the Diamondbacks' opening-day 25-man roster, where manager Kirk Gibson says Rowland-Smith is "in the mix" for one of the bullpen spots.
"I feel like the 'Australian Ryan' meets the 'U.S. Ryan' right now," Rowland Smith said.
Rowland-Smith spent the entire season last year with Triple-A Pawtucket, going 7-0 with one save and a 1.55 ERA. He's also had a stellar spring training, not giving up an earned run.
Craig Shipley, an Australian and former major leaguer who is special assistant to Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, says Rowland-Smith's double duty "might confuse some people."
"One night he's wearing an Australian uniform, the next night he's playing for the Diamondbacks," Shipley said. "But it's a unique angle. Ryan is excited about it."