June 30, 2008
By David Driver
For the Tidings, used with permission
WASHINGTON — Jeremy Guthrie was the best pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles during the second half of last season.
But the 1997 Ashland High School graduate also realized his changeup could be better.
"It was something I recognized last year," said Guthrie, sitting in the Oriole clubhouse during a weekend series in Washington.
Rick Kranitz, meanwhile, came to the Orioles as their pitching coach prior to the 2008 season. He had never worked with Guthrie but knew of his body of work following a record of 7-5 with an ERA of 3.70 a year ago.
"What I heard coming in was he was very aggressive. I had an idea of what to look for," said Kranitz, who came over from the Florida Marlins. But Kranitz also realized breaking pitches could make Guthrie even more effective.
Guthrie and Kranitz must be on the same page, since the right-handed starter has used his changeup more often this season.
"He has added that (improved change) and a (better) curveball as well," Kranitz said. "Both of his pitches have made his fastball that much better."
Guthrie has been so effective, despite a lack of run support from the Oriole hitters, that Kranitz feels is worthy to be an All-Star in the American League.
That may be unlikely, but Guthrie has had an impressive first half of the season.
Following his start Sunday here against the Washington Nationals, he is 4-7 with an ERA of 3.50 in 115.2 innings.
Guthrie allowed just one run in seven innings Sunday against the Nationals but did not figure in the decision as Washington won 3-2 with a two-run homer in the last of the 12th by Ronnie Belliard. The Orioles have scored 10 runs in Guthrie's seven losses this season.
The Washington lineup Sunday included Kory Casto, a left-handed hitter who is from Salem and played at the University of Portland. Guthrie said Friday he had never met Casto. Guthrie allowed one run in the first inning but retired Casto to end the frame and escape further damage. Casto was hitless in five at bats and is now batting .188.
Guthrie is among the league leaders in innings pitched and ERA — and also losses. And his pitching coach feels he is All-Star caliber.
"Absolutely. He certainly pitched well enough to be there," Krantiz said. "There is no doubt in my mind."
Guthrie said he does not let the lack of offense when he pitches bother him.
"I don't ever think about things I can't control," Guthrie said. "You work on what you can control."
Baltimore outfielder Luke Scott, who like Guthrie also played in the minor league system of Cleveland, has been impressed with how the Oriole pitcher has handled himself with the lack of support.
"Guthrie is a man of pride. He is a man of faith," Scott said. "He doesn't allow circumstances to get him down. He may get frustrated at himself but not at us. He is a competitor."
Baltimore pitcher Brian Burres, who was born in Oregon City and lives in Clackamas, first met Guthrie when they were charting pitches on opposing teams at the Class AAA level in the minor leagues in 2006. They did not know the other was from Oregon.
"He's a great dude. He's an ever better person than pitcher," Burres said. "He goes deep in games. He is doing a great job."
So have the Orioles.
The Birds were predicted by experts to lose at least 90 games this season. So far they are making a run to end a streak of 10 straight losing seasons. Baltimore is 41-39 after Sunday's game in Washington.
"Comeback wins have been huge. We have had really good timely hitting and have a really good bullpen," Guthrie said. "Everyone has been pretty consistent. No one is having a blowout season."
The same is true of Guthrie, a former Cleveland Indian prospect who worked last year with pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
"He has been very enjoyable to work with," Guthrie said of Kranitz. "He keeps a positive attitude."
Notes: Guthrie pitched for the first time at Wrigley Field on June 24. "It is very loud and exciting. It is very comparable to Fenway," said Guthrie, who pitched one of his best games in Boston last season Guthrie doubled in the fifth inning Sunday for his first Major League hit. National League rules were used since the game was played in Washington Burres, bothered by stomach problems the past few days, is slated to start for the Orioles on the mound at home Monday against Kansas City.