The Houston Astros have added another name to their 5th starter competition by announcing they’ve come to terms with left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith. Smith has been both an effective starter and reliever over his 4 seasons in the major leagues; all with Seattle.
From 2008-2009, Rowland-Smith made 62 appearances, 27 of which were starts, and had a 3.56 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, but a pedestrian 1.72 K:BB over 214.2 innings. However, he did post a 120 ERA+. 2010 was not so smooth for the triple-named southpaw. Last season, he went 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA. While Rowland-Smith outpitched his suggested effectiveness in 08-09 (according to FIPs of 4.53 and 4.20, respectively) he really was that bad in 2010. His FIP this past season was a disturbing 6.55. And you can’t attribute this to sample size as he pitched 109 major league innings.
It’s not clear what the Astros will be paying Rowland-Smith since his contract is still contingent on the successful completion of a team physical. However, it’s more than likely a pretty minimal risk with a possibly high upside. If the Astros can get the 08-09 Rowland-Smith as a 5th starter, this move makes Ed Wade look pretty smart. And if the lefty can’t win the spot in spring training, he would be a welcomed addition to a bullpen whose only viable left-handed options are Wesley Wright and Fernando Abad. Rowland-Smith’s 3.68 ERA as a reliever is more than a run better than his 4.87 mark as a starter.