April 1, 2008
By David Driver
For the Tidings, Used with permission
BALTIMORE — A few hours before his first Opening Day start in the Majors, pitcher Jeremy Guthrie walked calmly through the Orioles clubhouse carrying a broom.
No, the 1997 Ashland High graduate was not trying to rally his team with thoughts of a sweep to open the American League season.
The broom was needed for cleanup operations after Guthrie gave himself a haircut prior to facing the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was too bad he was not able to cut the corners so neatly with all of his pitches Monday. Guthrie, who a year ago began the season in the bullpen for Baltimore, allowed six runs (five earned) and nine hits in a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay before an announced sellout crowd of 46,807. He fanned two, walked one and hit a batter and was tagged with the loss.
"I thought Guthrie threw strikes but his location wasn't what we were used to," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "The location of his secondary pitches is what got us in trouble."
Guthrie, standing in front of his locker Monday evening, agreed with that assessment. The former three-sport star at AHS said he was more effective hitting the corners than keeping the ball down in the zone.
"The biggest difference (from successful outings) was a lot of pitches were up," said Guthrie, who got the opening day nod over more veteran pitchers. "The thing that I lacked was being down in the zone. I attacked the zone."
Guthrie said the hoopla of starting on Opening Day in a city with a rich baseball history did not factor into his outing. Last season he allowed more than two earned runs in just three of his first 17 starts through June 26.
"I felt good. I don't feel any different after this game," he said. "You put any start behind you. This was a bad one."
Guthrie said any jitters disappeared once he threw his first pitch of the game for a strike. "From then on it was a regular game. This was like any other game," said Guthrie, who turns 29 on April 8.
He joins noted hurlers Jim Palmer, Steve Stone and Mike Mussina (among others) as right-handed pitchers to start an Opening Day game in Baltimore for the Orioles. Palmer, a Cy Young winner, is now a local broadcaster who covered Monday's game.
Guthrie gave up three runs in the third inning due in part to an error by third baseman Melvin Mora and a two-run single by B.J. Upton as the Rays took a 3-2 lead.
Tampa Bay made it 4-2 as Eric Hinske led off the fourth with a home run off Guthrie. "It was a 2-1 pitch. I threw a fastball. It was around the belt," Guthrie said.
The Rays made it 6-2 in the top of the sixth following back-to-back RBI singles by Dioner Navarro and Jason Bartlett, the bottom two hitters in the lineup.
That left runners on first and second with one out. Reliever Matt Albers then took over for Guthrie, who left to a small round of applause from the crowd on a chilly, drizzly day in the Inner Harbor. Brian Burres, a native of Oregon City, pitched a scoreless ninth inning for Baltimore.
Guthrie picked up his first big league win out of the bullpen on April 16 of last season at Tampa Bay. After starting the season in the bullpen, he made his first start for the Orioles on April 24 against Oakland.
Guthrie returned to the Oriole rotation for good in May of last season and finished the year with a record of 7-5 in 32 games (26 starts) with an ERA of 3.70.
He was second among AL rookies in ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched, third in opponents batting average at .249 and tied for third in wins. He was claimed off waivers on Jan. 29, 2007 from the Cleveland Indians, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2002.
Guthrie was 2-5 with an ERA of 4.15 in 15 games at home last season. His two wins in 2007 against Tampa Bay was the most against any club. Oriole reliever Jamie Walker, who turns 37 in July, has been impressed with Guthrie.
"He is very mature. He has earned this," Walker said of the opening day start. "He is a professional. He is our No. 1 starter. We will go as far as he takes us."
Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones, acquired in the February trade with Seattle that sent pitcher Erik Bedard (O's Opening Day starter in 2007) to the Mariners, said playing in back of Guthrie is ideal for fielders.
"He is a sinker ball pitcher and he works quickly. That is all you can ask for," Jones said. "He is a competitor. If he gives up a walk, he is ready to get back on the mound. He is a great guy. He is quiet and he does his thing."
Guthrie was 1-1 with an ERA of 5.00 in five starts during spring training. In his last spring training game Guthrie allowed four runs, three earned, in 4 1-3 innings of work against the St. Louis Cardinals in an 8-2 loss Wednesday. He had one walk and two strikeouts.
One reporter asked Guthrie about the difference in Monday's game compared to last season. "They got base hits. That was the biggest difference," he said quickly.