May 24, 2007
By David Driver
for the Mail Tribune (Oregon)
Used with permission
WASHINGTON — Jeremy Guthrie can ride his bike from his home in the Inner Harbor to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And his wife and two young children can walk to the popular Aquarium in downtown Baltimore.
But perhaps the best news of all is that Guthrie, a graduate of Ashland High School, is getting a chance to perform on a regular basis for the first time at the major league level after four years in the Cleveland organization.
"It was a good time (to leave). It was tough in terms of leaving friends. But baseball-wise, it was a great move," said Guthrie, who was claimed off waivers in January.
"It was a nice transition. There are a lot of good guys here," added Guthrie, 28, as he stood in the Oriole clubhouse this past weekend during a series at Washington. "From the first moment I got here, everything was really open. I felt like I was in the same spot (as Cleveland) relatively quickly coming over to a new team."
Jim Duquette, vice president of baseball operations for the Orioles, said that Guthrie needed a change of scenery after being a top prospect with Indians and dealing with the resultant pressure.
"He is one of those guys that needed a clean slate. We took a lot of that pressure off of him. He has always had good stuff," Duquette said.
Guthrie is a 6-foot-1 right-hander whose fastball has been clocked at 96 miles per hour. He was 2-1, with a 2.95 ERA in 10 games (four starts), after another quality start here Saturday. Against the Nationals, he went seven innings and allowed just one run with 10 strikeouts in a game won by the Orioles, 3-2, in 11 innings.
"I didn't have as good of command as I had the previous start," Guthrie said Sunday. "We made some pitches when we needed to and it turned out really well. That is what I anticipated, a great opportunity, just being able to pitch. It was obviously what I hoped for, and hopefully I can continue to pitch well and continue to earn that opportunity and go out there every five days."
Guthrie's performance has already earned him at least one important endorsement.
"The best thing going for Jeremy is he knows he is not auditioning now (for a big league job). He is in the rotation," said Baltimore pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who handled several Cy Young winners during a long tenure in Atlanta. "He has an exceptional fastball. He has done extremely well so far."
His next start is today at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Guthrie threw the best game of his major league career on May 13 in Boston, taking a 5-0 shutout into the bottom of the ninth inning. But the Oriole bullpen blew the game as the Red Sox came back to win.
"Looking back, you wish the game would have gone differently. It didn't work out that way," Guthrie said. "You move on and try to build off all of the positives because there were so many in that game."
Guthrie retired 15 straight batters at one point Saturday against the Nationals. He has an ERA of 1.03 as a starter for the Orioles. Guthrie has enjoyed working with Mazzone, in his second season in Baltimore after leaving the Braves.
"It has been great," Guthrie said. "It gives you a lot of confidence because of that track record (with Atlanta). He has helped me work on the fastball, command that and start there and worry about the other pitches after that. So it has been real nice."
Guthrie was used out of the bullpen early in the year by the Orioles, but for now he seems solid as a starter.
"Starting allows you to have a more consistent routine. Obviously, you know when you are going to pitch," he said. "Relieving is a little more up in the air. The challenge is staying fresh and staying sharp."
Guthrie began his college career at BYU, then served a two-year Mormon mission in Spain. He then enrolled at Stanford in the fall of 2000 and was a two-time college All-American.
He was drafted in the first round as the 22nd overall pick by Cleveland in 2002, and began his career with Class AA Akron of the Eastern League in 2003. Guthrie made his major league debut in 2004 with the Indians, and he went back and forth between the minors every season from 2004 to 2006.
Ross Atkins, the director of player development for the Indians, said: "He showed a lot of progress. We still wish we had him. He is a smart pitcher. He is a student of his own game. He is extremely durable. He is very athletic."
The Orioles have not had a winning record in 10 years, and they have struggled the first quarter of this season. Two players exchanged words after a loss in Toronto last week, and another player and a coach had a misunderstanding in another game, according to published reports.
That hasn't been a distraction to Guthrie, however.
"Everyone is real professional. Everyone stays upbeat, tries to, and works on what they need to work on and help the team get better," he said.
The status of Oriole manager Perlozzo has also been speculated upon in Baltimore papers. But Guthrie tries to ignore those reports.
"As a player, you never really hear it, unless you read the papers," he said. "It doesn't concern the players too much, especially someone like me who is a rookie and is happy to be here. It doesn't effect anything I do. Each player is probably a little bit different. The goal is to work and get better, and hopefully you getting better helps the team win games."