Derrick Hall takes team to famous Sydney Opera House

SYDNEY -- Ryan Rowland-Smith was a man very much in demand Tuesday.

The D-backs left-hander returned to the city of his birth in the wee hours of the morning, and he found himself playing tour guide on the bus ride from the hotel to the Sydney Cricket Ground for the team's practice.

"Driving here, everyone was asking even the simple stuff," he said. "And stuff I didn't know the answer to, I just made stuff up."

The last time Rowland-Smith was at the stadium, he was a kid, and he and his dad sat up in the nosebleed section.

On Thursday, Rowland-Smith will be on the field pitching for the Australian national team against the Dodgers, and he might see action the following night for the D-backs against Team Australia.

The stadium has changed quite a bit since Rowland-Smith was last there.

"It looks amazing," he said. "It fits the unique dimensions of a baseball field a lot better than I thought. I was expecting maybe a situation where the seats would be far back, but no. This is amazing. It looks legitimate like a baseball field."

Rowland-Smith did have some tips for his teammates for their off time this week.

"As long as guys can get out of the tour buses and try to experience a little bit of the real Australian culture away from all this," Rowland-Smith said. "They will love it."

D-backs take in Sydney Cricket Ground

D-backs impressed with Sydney Cricket Ground

SYDNEY -- The D-backs got their first look at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday afternoon, and they were impressed by what they saw.

The stadium dates back to the middle of the 19th century, and though it has been remodeled over the years, the Member's Pavilion, which was built in 1886, still remains. And players walked around it and were awed by the history.

"I think it's pretty incredible, actually," said Wade Miley, who will start Game 1 of the Opening Series for the D-backs at 7 p.m. Sydney time on Saturday (1 a.m. MST). "I just like the way it looks. It's like old-timey baseball there [with the Member's Pavilion]. It's what you used to see in Brooklyn Dodgers baseball."

The dimensions are 328 feet down the lines, 370 to the gaps and 400 to straightaway center. There is a lot of foul ground, comparable to O.co Coliseum in Oakland.

"It's awesome, man," center fielder A.J. Pollock said. "The first thing is just a wow factor when you get here. It's a really cool atmosphere, really cool everything."

D-backs infielders took ground balls, while the outfielders took some fly balls to get a feel for how the field would play.

There were some areas of the infield where there were some bad hops, and Pollock in center faces the unique challenge of having a portion of shallow center being harder than the rest, because it's where the clay that holds the wickets for the cricket matches.

"It's not an issue," Pollock said. "It's different. No problem at all."

The D-backs will hold workouts at the stadium Wednesday and Thursday, and then play an exhibition game against the Australian national team on Friday before opening the regular season with games Saturday and Sunday.

That should give them time to become more accustomed to the stadium and field.

Tuesday, though, was about admiring the place.

"We got in here and everyone took 20 minutes to just soak it in," Pollock said. "It's just an amazing looking park. They did a great job. They've got a really, really neat park."

Grace joins coaching staff for Opening Series

Mark Grace finally wins the mascot race

SYDNEY -- D-backs general manager Kevin Towers confirmed Tuesday that former first baseman Mark Grace will serve as the team's assistant hitting coach for the Opening Series against the Dodgers.

The D-backs left that position on the coach staff open this winter and have an agreement with Henry Blanco that if he does not win the backup catching job this spring, he will take over that role.

That would mean Grace would be the hitting coach at short-season Class A Hillsboro as initially planned. However, if Blanco makes the team, Grace will serve as assistant hitting coach.

With Blanco set to be on the roster for the two-game series against the Dodgers, Grace will fill the role. The team will make a final determination on the situation prior to the March 31 U.S. opener against the Giants.

Grace played for the D-backs from 2001-03, and he was a television broadcaster for them from 2004-12.

Worth noting

• Some D-backs players and officials took a tour of the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday, and they were treated to lunch.

• Players seemed to be in good spirits following their 15-hour flight from Phoenix to Sydney, which landed a little after 6 a.m. on Tuesday. The team had departed Phoenix on Sunday night.

"It wasn't bad at all," D-backs GM Kevin Towers said of the flight. "Most of our guys all feel pretty good right now; nobody's tired."

• D-backs pitcher Wade Miley thought he had stepped "20 years" into the future when he boarded the team's 747 for the flight.

"Those little shells they had in the front, I was like, 'What is this?'" Miley said of the seats that turned into beds. "Some kind of energy pods, nap pods on the plane, that was my first thought."

It was the largest plane Miley had ever flown on.

• The D-backs hope to use just three pitchers to get through the exhibition game with Team Australia on Friday night.

Archie Bradley will start and is targeted to throw five innings, with Zeke Spruill and Charles Brewer scheduled for two innings apiece.

Australian Ryan Rowland-Smith is another arm the team could use.