Guthrie says he'll be fine, but one wonders

Orioles starter still inconsistent with season two weeks away

March 24, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

JUPITER, Fla. — There are times when Jeremy Guthrie makes you crazy.

He's clearly a very talented pitcher and a very intelligent guy. He's also a young man who seems as though he's in a constant struggle to figure himself out, so that's probably a fool's errand for anybody else.

Let's just leave it at this. Guthrie pitched much better Tuesday than in Tampa against the New York Yankees or in Dunedin against the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, that's not saying much, but this is the time of year when a little progress goes a long way.

"I think it was a little better," Guthrie said after pitching five innings in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Florida Marlins. "I thought I was more consistently down in the zone. That's the biggest thing for me. When I get in trouble, it's because I make poor pitches up in the zone and guys pound those. That's got to be No. 1 for me every time I go out."

So, mission accomplished, I guess.

Guthrie didn't allow the Marlins to bat around in the first inning as the Yankees did two starts back, and he didn't allow seven runs (six earned) over three innings as he did last time out against the Blue Jays. He threw 92 pitches and retired the leadoff batter in each of his five innings, crucial for just about anybody who makes a living throwing a baseball at the major league level.

What he didn't do was put the hammer down when he had two outs, and he did some things that will make a manager or pitching coach cringe - even in spring training.

He got the first two outs in the first inning, then walked Hanley Ramirez and eventually gave up an RBI single to Jorge Cantu. He got the first two outs of the second inning, then gave up a double to No. 8 hitter Brett Hayes and an RBI single to Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco. He got the first two outs of the fourth inning and then walked Nolasco on four pitches.

"Guthrie was better," manager Dave Trembley said. "He got the first batter out every inning. He pitched down better. Improved outing. ... He got the leadoff guys in every inning. Now, we've got to do a better job of getting the third out. The two-out walk ... a hit by the pitcher. That's not going to happen. Guthrie's not going to let that happen."

Except that he did, and until Guthrie begins to put it all together, it's fair to wonder what he's going to bring to the table when the lights come on for real. Right now, if it's not one thing, it's another.

"Obviously, that's something we need to overcome," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "That's basic baseball. You want the No. 9 hitter leading off innings. Those guys don't hit for a living. He just didn't make good pitches.

"I think it's more concentration. I think he realizes it's a pitcher hitting, but you've got to treat him like any other guy. You still have to have a game plan. He let it get away from him a couple of times."

If you talk to enough people, you're going to find somebody to say that Guthrie's inconsistency stems from a) mechanical problems; b) confidence issues; or c) concentration problems.

Maybe it's a little of each, but all that really matters is what Guthrie thinks, and he thinks he's going to be fine by the time the regular season opens in two weeks.

"I definitely wanted to pitch well," he said. "It wasn't a great outing, but it was productive. The biggest thing that has been plaguing me is lack of movement and being up in the zone, and those are two things I thought I did better today. There's still plenty of things to work on, but I still have two more outings."

Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "Sportsline" on WBAL (1090 AM), and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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