The Camden Bard

Jeremy Guthrie, You Poor Bastard…

Posted in orioles by audienceoftwo on March 24, 2009

The guy cannot catch a break.  Here he is, being asked to anchor the starting rotation on a dead-end team for $650,000 a year (a pay cut from last year, and some $4.35 million less than the number 2 man in the rotation, who has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues), and now this:

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 Twinsspring training facility in FortMyers. 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.

That last bit is the key, of course–I can’t think of that many pitchers who can get off a red-eye after an experience as heady as the WBC must be, and then be lights-out against a major-league team (albeit a spring-training squad) a few hours later–even 2008 AL Cy Young-winner Cliff Lee is having a rough go of it under far less dire circumstances.

Look–I’m certainly not going to sit here when I’m supposed to be answering 174 customer support emails and argue that J-Guth is in line for a Cy Young award.  But I do think the guy gets a bad rap.  He is, by all accounts, a very smart, analytical pitcher (a Stanford grad, like the last truly great Oriole) with decent stuff who has, in two full seasons with the Orioles, thrown close to 400 innings and kept his ERA under four, all the while being derided as indicative of everything that’s wrong with the team.  The team seems to be waiting for something to justify a move for a true ace, when the reality is that the offense is there, as is the last half of the rotation in Guthrie, Uehara (I’m perfectly happy to gamble that what worked for the Yomiuri Giants will work for the O’s–I’d just prefer it were out of the 4-spot in the rotation), and Hendrickson or whoever.  It’s not Guthrie’s fault the team can’t contend with him leading the staff–it’s the team’s fault for expecting it.  MAKE A MOVE–spend the money to bring in a couple of studs so Guthrie can pitch to his abilities–200 innings and a sterling ERA from the 3-spot in the rotation.  That’s giving your team three legitimate chances out of five to win games.  You know, .600 baseball.  Remember that, Baltimore?

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