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Royals pitcher Guthrie had an eventful offseason

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Jeremy Guthrie toured Spain with catcher Salvador Perez and climbed China's Great Wall before reporting to the Kansas City Royals camp.

Guthrie, an Ashland native who led the Royals with 15 victories last season, said he has been to 18 countries, but this was his initial trip to China. He was with several other players representing Major League Baseball in giving clinics and promoting the game.

"I saw a few players that are very talented and would have a chance to come over here and play professionally and I think sooner than later," Guthrie said Monday. "That's the whole goal of the Major League Baseball center to have the game grow. It certainly takes a native player of that country to really spark interest in the sport.

"China is even more like that than any country, like Li Na, the tennis player. The country is crazy for tennis now because of her. A baseball player in the Major Leagues, a native to China, will send shock waves through that country and excite them even more for baseball. It's in it's infancy over there for sure, the game of baseball."

Guthrie walked on the Great Wall.

"That really for me was No. 1 on my list," Guthrie said. "It was something I always wanted to do was go to China and go on the Great Wall, so I was very excited."

Guthrie has gone the past four years to Spain, where he spent a two-year missionary trip when he was 19-to-21 for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I invited Salvy to come over with me, which was great to see the country and teach baseball. I have a great affection for the Spanish culture and the people there.

"I think Salvy really loved it. He had never been to Europe before and so it was a real awesome experience. We were together at a hotel in Barcelona when they announced he won the Gold Glove."

Guthrie established career highs in victories and innings, 211 2/3, while posting a 4.04 ERA last season. It was the first time Guthrie played on a club with a winning record.

"Overall it was satisfying because the way the team played," he said. "It was a very interesting year. I had some of the better games of my career, two shutouts which I had never done before, and obviously, the most wins, the most innings.

"But at the same time, I had a number of games where I gave up six earned runs. But I still had a chance to have an ERA south of four."

Guthrie yielded an American League-high 236 hits, but he stranded a career high 78.2 percent of his runners.

"He had more hits than innings pitched, but with a good defense and confidence in your ability to make a pitch and not worry about the hitter hitting it, while relying on your defense, that's what he does so well," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had a great year. There's no reason to think he's not going to do it again this year."

Guthrie went 9-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 17 straight starts from Aug. 8, 2012 to May 9, 2013 breaking Paul Splittorff's club record of 16 starts without a defeat set in 1977-78. Guthrie began last season 5-0 with a 2.40 ERA before losing May 9 at Baltimore.

"I didn't know much about the record until it was broken," Guthrie said. "It was a huge honor to be able to do something that a Royals' legend had done years ago. "That streak had little to do with me and more to do with the team. A pitcher only avoids losses if a team hits and plays defense behind you. I guess the pitcher is the third part in that type of streak."