Guthrie Looks Ready for Opening Day

Jeremy Guthrie made a start today against Minnesota Twins minor leaguers and, by all accounts, looked sharp. In six innings he gave up one run on four hits, struck out four, and walked none. Of his 82 pitches, 56 went for strikes. It seems weird for me to say that a start against minor league players was important for the likely opening day starter for the O’s, but it was. The last time Guthrie had a record over .500 was back in 2007 when he went 7-5. Since then, he’s gone 10-12, 10-17, and 11-14. With this year’s rotation looking set to to include many of the young arms of the O’s future, Guthrie’s job as “staff ace” could be more important than ever.

Although Buck Showalter still has not yet officially named his starter for Opening Day in Tampa, the consensus around Sarasota is that it will be Jeremy Guthrie once again. With only one more possible start before the season starts April 1st, today was his next-to-last last chance to fine tune mechanics and make sure everything is right before games matter for real. His previous start before this one was against Boston Red Sox minor leagues, so for two straight starts he’s faced minor league bats and talent to end the spring.

After last season’s turn around under Showalter, I’m going to trust his call on this one. Personally I’d like to see the potential opening day starter facing major league bats to get ready, but I understand building his confidence also. Guthrie had this to say after today’s start, “I was working on the execution of pitches, working on a couple of sequences. I felt a lot better today. I felt strong throughout the outing.” After his last start, these were encouraging words, so I’ll take it.

In his last start against Red Sox minor leaguers he noticeably got tired towards the end of his day, and that’s when he started to get knocked around a bit. His stamina appears to be getting better, which could be key with a revamped bullpen and a starting rotation around him that’s short on major league experience, which could lead to some taxing on the middle relievers at various points throughout the season. He will be needed to go 7+ innings on most nights, a number he came very close to last season. In 32 starts he threw 209.1 innings an average of 6.5 inning per start.

In his interview with Lisa Kerney in MLB Network’s Orioles season preview Guthrie talked about “using all four of his pitches this season and not just relying on two or three, as well as being aggressive within the strike zone so he’s working ahead more in the count to put hitters at a disadvantage” when he was asked what he had been working on this spring training. He also addressed his role as leader/mentor as the veteran of the rotation. Signs are pointing to Guthrie having a good season and being the leader Buck Showalter needs him to be. Let’s hope spring success turns into regular season success.

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