Mariners left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith has received "very positive" feedback from club officials regarding his potential participation in the World Baseball Classic, but his decision probably won't come until next month. "I have had a few chats with my new [pitching] coaches [Rick Adair and John Wetteland] and they have been very positive," Rowland-Smith wrote in an e-mail from his offseason home in Australia. "But my No. 1 priority this Spring Training is to maintain my spot in the rotation. "That's all I have been thinking about and working towards this offseason. Every workout and throwing session I have is to invest in that happening and to be at my best when Opening Day rolls around."
Rowland-Smith, who will celebrate his 26th birthday on January 26, is expected to be on Team Australia's 45-man provisional roster, which will be announced on Monday night. The lefty probably would be the ace of the Aussie pitching staff. "If I can do the [Classic] without any interruptions to my preparation, I will," he wrote. "But I can make my final decision close to the first game in March. As long as I'm at a point in my preparation which allows me to participate to the fullest, I will. I just wouldn't want to go away and only be able to give Team Australia a minimal amount of innings and put them at a disadvantage." His national team is scheduled to play its first Classic game on March 8 against Mexico in Mexico City. Four days earlier, Australia plays the Mariners at Peoria Stadium in a tune-up game. "If I am feeling good and the Mariners are comfortable with me missing a few days, then I'll go," he wrote. "I've been on a mission this offseason with one thing on my mind, and that is to be a part the Mariners' rotation. I'm going to do everything in my power to see that through." Rowland-Smith is one of at least six starters vying for five rotation spots heading into Spring Training, which begins on Feb. 14 for the Mariners. He finished the 2008 season strong, posting a 2.56 ERA and eight consecutive quality starts, a streak that started on Aug. 21. He finished the season with a 5-3 record and a 3.42 ERA.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.