For Guthrie, location is key

Back from Team USA, Orioles ace struggles in outing against Twins

March 24, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Jeremy Guthrie walked out of Dodger Stadium on Sunday night just after Mark DeRosa connected for a two-run double, the eighth-inning hit cutting Team USA's deficit against Japan to two runs and breathing life into its chances of making it to the final of the World Baseball Classic.

At the time, Guthrie, an analytical thinker if there ever was one, was torn. The last thing he wanted was to leave an experience in Los Angeles that he said "can't be matched" one game short of his and his teammates' ultimate goal. However, he also knew that the Orioles pitching staff that he left behind was in desperate straits and he had already been publicly called home by his pitching coach, who was concerned that the right-hander wasn't getting enough game action to be ready for his expected Opening Day start in two weeks.

Weighing all those factors, Guthrie boarded a plane to Fort Lauderdale not long after Team USA was beaten and eliminated by Japan.

"It was up in the air, it really was. It was going to be a tough decision [and] had we been ahead, it would have been real difficult," Guthrie said. "But I couldn't afford in my mind to lose that game and not catch the flight and only get two starts" for the Orioles.

Guthrie arrived in Florida at 6 a.m., went to his apartment to drop off luggage and then was on the Orioles' team bus by 8 a.m. as it pulled away from Fort Lauderdale Stadium to make the two-plus-hour trip to the Minnesota Twins' spring training facility in Fort Myers. At about 1:15 Monday afternoon, Guthrie was on the mound in a Grapefruit League game for just the second time this spring.

Guthrie lasted 3 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits, three walks and striking out four. It wasn't an impressive performance, unless you consider the circumstances.

"In reality, today was two or three pitches away from being a real solid outing, but I'm still able to look at it and feel positive about what I was able to do," said Guthrie, who will start Friday on three days' rest and be in line to pitch Opening Day.

Guthrie was a mixed bag, striking out the side in the first inning but also surrendering a long two-run homer to Justin Morneau. He appeared to tire in the fourth, allowing four straight Twins to reach, two on walks, before manager Dave Trembley strolled to the mound to take the ball from his ace.

"I felt real good. I probably had the best location I had all spring," Guthrie said. "I think a couple of times this spring, I had a tough time at the end. Maybe, it's tiredness. ... I can't really put a finger on it and say, 'I feel tired,' but walking guys and getting behind is an indicator of that. The only thing that doesn't feel like where it should be is the fastball. When I reach back and try to get a little bit extra, I don't have that right now. ... Hopefully that comes and that could be a difference for me."

Trembley is far more concerned about Guthrie's location. In two outings for Team USA, Guthrie allowed 10 runs (six earned), 14 hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings, giving him a World Baseball Classic ERA of 14.73. Even yesterday, he missed his spots several times and paid for it.

"That's not Jeremy Guthrie," Trembley said. "Obviously the command of his pitches isn't what we're used to seeing. He's missed a lot of time. He went to Team USA and he didn't pitch on a regular basis. Obviously, he's got some catching up to do. There were some delivery issues. He was getting out in front, drifting a little bit. He'll get regular work now back here with [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] and clean some things up."

It was Kranitz who said last week that Guthrie "needs to be here." The comments clearly did not please Guthrie.

"I feel in a sense, there was a little bit of panic, maybe directed toward the staff as a whole with all the injuries and directed toward my situation," Guthrie said. "I don't think that's conducive to getting ready for a season. ... I'm not a person that operates under those conditions in my daily life or in my baseball life."

Guthrie said the focus should be on his final two starts, not the time he has missed.

"I just want to go out there and put zeros up. I'm not concerned," he said.

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