BALTIMORE — Jeremy Guthrie, the 1997 Ashland High graduate and Roseburg native, has been the ace or most effective starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles for nearly four years.
But a leading industry publication projects that will not be the case in a few years. Baseball America, in its 2011 publication of top prospects for each Major League team, projects that Guthrie will be the No. 5 starter for the Orioles by 2014.
That is not a slam at the reliable right-hander, who has made 129 starts for the Birds since 2007. The projection is more of a nod to the talented young pitchers such as Brian Matusz, former Mariner minor leaguer Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and now rookie Zach Britton (5-2 before his Wednesday start), who have come to the big leagues in the last few years.
But for now Guthrie, who turned 31 in April, is leading the charge of the Baltimore rotation under manager Buck Showalter. A former college player at BYU and Stanford, Guthrie is slated to start at home tonight for the Orioles against the New York Yankees.
"He means business every day," said Brandon Snyder, who spent time as a first baseman with the Orioles the past two years. "Just the way he goes about his business is impressive."
Snyder was in spring training with the Orioles and then began this season with Class AAA Norfolk, the top farm team of the Orioles. Snyder was activated before Wednesday's game with the Yankees as infielder Cesar Izturis went on the disabled list.
Snyder, 24, who grew up following the Orioles in Northern Virginia, said it is important for a young player to confide in veterans when he arrives in the majors. "It helps those guys out a lot," Snyder said of Guthrie's role with the Orioles' pitching staff. "It is indescribable what that means to a player."
Guthrie would have pitched here Wednesday against the Yankees but the Orioles were rained out Tuesday night in Boston. So Showalter had Britton, who was slated to pitch Tuesday, start against the Yankees on Wednesday and moved Guthrie back a day as well. Britton has been one of the bright spots this season for the Orioles. "He is pretty sincere the way he goes about his business," Showalter said of Britton before Wednesday's game.
The same could be said of Guthrie, who made his big league debut with Cleveland in 2004 and then came to the Orioles in time for the 2007 season. He has pitched pretty well this season but again has been the victim of poor run support by Baltimore. In his first eight starts he was 1-6 with an ERA of 3.98, with one complete game.
"I feel good. It has been disappointing (so far). I would like to win more games," he said in a short interview before Wednesday's game with the Yankees.
Guthrie has pitched 52 innings and allowed 53 hits with 32 strikeouts and just nine walks. He has not won since beating Tampa Bay on opening day in Baltimore. In his last start at home May 7, again versus Tampa Bay, he was the loser, 8-2.
"I actually felt as sharp as I've felt all season," Guthrie said after that game. "Unfortunately, I kind of wasted it giving up big home runs with two outs."
Guthrie, who lost Friday at Tampa Bay, has no balks and no wild pitches and the Orioles staff has just five wild pitches while opponents had 18 going into Wednesday's game. That may be a strong reflection on Matt Wieters, 24, the young Orioles catcher who handles Guthrie and company.
"He has been very mature. There is a real fire that burns inside of this guy," Showalter said of Wieters.
Arrieta, who broke into the big leagues last year, said Guthrie provides support for younger players.
"He leads by example," Arrieta said. "He is a very well prepared guy. He helps all of us."
David Driver is a free-lance writer in Maryland and can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com