FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -Coming into spring training, the Orioles had only one starting pitcher who was considered a known quantity. Jeremy Guthrie won 10 games in 2008 for a last-place team and his ERA ranked 14th in the American League, which made him the obvious choice to be the Opening Day starter in 2009.
Six weeks later, Guthrie is struggling so badly he no longer looks like an obvious choice to be at the top of the rotation, though there are no plans to alter the pecking order. He gave up eight runs on 10 hits in his final tuneup of the spring in Wednesday's 13-2 loss to the Florida Marlins at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and will exit spring training without a decent performance since he pitched three scoreless innings in his first Grapefruit League start Feb. 28.
In between, he left to pitch for the United States in the World Baseball Classic, but that didn't go particularly well, so the Orioles will open the regular season Monday with uncertainty from the top of the rotation to the bottom. The only starters who have pitched well this spring are Japanese player Koji Uehara and Mexican League salvage project Alfredo Simon, and nobody is going to bet the farm on them.
Here are Guthrie's frightening totals: In exhibition and WBC action, he has pitched 19 innings and given up 26 earned runs on 38 hits and nine walks. That works out to a 12.32 ERA, which has to have manager Dave Trembley scratching his head. Guthrie said he wouldn't blame anyone for wondering what's wrong with him, but he isn't going to panic.
"Yeah, certainly you should be concerned," he said. "I haven't gotten anybody out. ... I can't seem to get any breaks. Some good pitches are getting hit, and all the bad ones are getting hit. I personally am not going to be concerned, but that's not ignoring the performance. I'd like to be in a better spot, but as far as my pitches are concerned, I feel I'm close."
He said he feels all right physically but acknowledged his velocity is down "a couple [mph]" and does not have an explanation for that. His spring routine has been very uneven because of his participation in the World Baseball Classic, but he said he wouldn't have done it any other way.
"My preparation hasn't gone well," he said, "but I would do that again 100 out of 100 times with the same results. If I had pitched well in the WBC, I would have gotten my work in. But it's Jeremy Guthrie, not the WBC."
Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said after Wednesday's game that he would like to have seen more from Guthrie this spring but doesn't think it's fair to judge him by his Grapefruit League statistics after a spring in which he has never been able to get into his preseason routine.
"This stuff doesn't matter," Kranitz said. "You can look all through baseball and there are people struggling. It doesn't mean anything. It's not going on the back of your baseball card."
Trembley wasn't interested in dissecting Guthrie's exhibition struggles.
"Spring training is over," he said. "For him, we'll turn the page and get him ready for Opening Day."
Notes: : Trembley said he remains confident injured veterans Brian Roberts and Gregg Zaun will be able to play this weekend and be in the starting lineup Opening Day. "I talked to Brian this morning," Trembley said. "He took infield and hit. He has assured me he'll be ready to play in Norfolk [on Friday]. Zaun will go with us to Port St. Lucie [on Thursday] and DH. I feel good about that, as well." ... Rich Hill will go to extended spring training in Sarasota on Thursday, while minor league pitchers Zach Clark and Andy Mitchell have rejoined the major league club for a couple of games to provide emergency pitching depth. ... Former Oriole Brady Anderson visited Fort Lauderdale Stadium after coming to South Florida on business.