When the Orioles traded for veteran Kevin Millwood in December, the conventional wisdom was that the move most benefited Jeremy Guthrie, who no longer had to shoulder the responsibilities of a No. 1 starter.
Having a proven pitcher like Millwood at the top of the rotation would take the pressure off Guthrie, who is entering just his fourth full season in the big leagues and struggled to 17 losses last season as the Orioles' ace.
Guthrie thinks adding Millwood makes the Orioles much better. But he doesn't think it makes his job easier or gives him a better chance at success in 2010.
"It doesn't mean a whole bunch to me. It means more to the team, for the Orioles," Guthrie said. "He can't throw my pitches for me and he can't get my outs for me. So, ultimately, I'll be in the same boat as every other time I've pitched in my career."
Guthrie was 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA in 2009, after a superb 2008 in which he went 10-12 with a 3.63 ERA. There was speculation throughout last season that pressure from his new role as the club's top starter hampered his performance. Like he has in the past, Guthrie shot down that theory at Saturday's FanFest.
"My pressure is self-motivated, self-applied, a desire to pitch well," he said. "You can put CC Sabathia, Johan Santana and Cliff Lee around me and it's not going to make me feel any better about my ability to pitch. Those guys will do what they can do and, ultimately, it's my responsibility to do what I can do when it's my turn to pitch."
Guthrie, 30, sees one distinct advantage of having someone like Millwood, 35, around. It will give the analytical Guthrie another person to exchange ideas with.
"You have to take advantage of those players that have experience both in number of years in the big leagues as well as playoff experience," Guthrie said. "He's been a great pitcher in the major leagues for a lot of years now. I will, for sure, learn from him and get little tidbits here and there to improve myself as a pitcher."
Wieters pumped for 2010
When catcher Matt Wieters left Baltimore at end of last season, he was asked to come into spring training stronger and in better shape.
The thinking was that the added strength would help Wieters drive the ball better and improved cardio would help him deal with the rigors of a full, big league season behind the plate. Wieters took a month off and then began an offseason workout program in November that he believes has him leaner and more prepared physically for 2010.
"I feel good. My workouts have been going real well this year and I've been staying healthy throughout the offseason," Wieters said. "I'm just going to try to finish strong the last month of the offseason and get ready to get going."
Wieters, 23, had a solid rookie campaign that improved as it went on. He ended up batting .362 with three homers and 14 RBIs in September and had 17 RBIs in his last 20 games after driving in just 17 in his first 52 contests. He said he was pleased with his first season, but left the team with a definite offseason goal.
"Getting stronger. You lose all the stuff that you build up in the prior offseason so you have to get back to where you know you can to be," he said. "And more importantly than that, you need the flexibility and the core strength that's going to carry you through a long year."
Sarfate hoping to bounce back
Reliever Dennis Sarfate is hoping to put a nightmarish 2009 behind him. The 28-year-old right-hander appeared in just 20 games (0-1, 5.09 ERA), partially because of a circulatory condition in his hand that was initially considered potentially career-threatening. Sarfate made it back to the Orioles by September, but there was a question as to whether the club would tender him a 2010 contract.
They did, and he ended up pitching in the Mexican Winter League. He said his fastball velocity was back to 96-97 mph in winter ball.
"It's good to know that it's all in the past. I'm not worried about it," Sarfate said of his injuries. "It's the best my shoulder has ever felt. I don't get sore, I don't get tired. The pain from everything is gone. I haven't lost sensation in my hand. Everything is going as well as it could go."
Around the horn
Infielder Miguel Tejada was expected to fly into Baltimore on Monday and undergo a physical Tuesday morning. If all goes well, the club likely will announce his one-year, $6 million deal Tuesday afternoon.