Three Good Starts Get Guthrie Going

Jeremy Guthrie

BUFFALO -- Jeremy Guthrie is back. He may not be back to the same performance level he was at when he made his pro baseball debut at Akron in 2003, but the 26-year-old right-hander definitely is back on the Tribe's radar screen in terms of once again being a legitimate major league prospect.

Guthrie, the Tribe's first-round draft choice in 2002, had fallen upon tough times since his initial 10 games with the Aeros. He shot out of the gate in 2003 with a 6-2 record and miniscule 1.44 ERA, prompting many people to believe he could make it all the way to the majors by season's end.

The last time any Indians pitcher made a more rapid rise came in 1970 when "Stunning" Steve Dunning went directly from Stanford University to the major leagues after being that year's second overall pick.

Unfortunately, Dunning is better known for the fact he was the last American League pitcher to hit a grand slam than for anything he did on the mound for the Tribe.

And for quite some time, it seemed Guthrie, also a product of Stanford, would best be known for his red-hot start at Akron than anything he would do for the Indians.

Lack of control, lack of confidence and lack of the ability to put bad outings behind him were all contributing factors as Guthrie went just 14-23 from May 25, 2003 until May 4, 2005.

That meant he was getting pounded by Class AA and AAA hitters for nearly two years. He did enjoy a small amount of success at the end of the 2004 season when he finished the year in Cleveland's bullpen. He was 0-0 with a 4.63 ERA in six relief appearances at the major-league level.

Rather than building upon that success, Guthrie reverted to previous form when he returned to the rotation at Buffalo this year.

In his previous two stints with the Buffalo, Guthrie was pounded to the tune of a 4-9 record and a 6.52 ERA in 18 games in 2003 and 1-2 with a 7.91 ERA in four starts last year before he mercifully was returned to Akron. But even that didn't help much as he went just 8-8 with a 4.21 ERA in 23 games at a level he had previously dominated.

This year, things hit rock bottom for Guthrie when he stumbled out of the gate at 1-4, including a May 4 home outing against Scranton Wilkes-Barre in which he gave up seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings. That meant in three starts at Dunn Tire Park he was 0-3 with a whopping 15.43 ERA.

Not only was Guthrie's future in doubt, so was his present. The Indians knew they couldn't go on forever watching their former blue-chip prospect getting beaten around like a red-headed step-child.

Then an amazing thing happened. The Bisons went on the road to play Durham and Guthrie responded with six innings of three-hit shutout ball May 9 as he won for just the second time this year. Five days later, he had another strong road outing, going a season-high seven innings while recording a no-decision at Charlotte.

The big test, however, still awaited Guthrie. He needed to prove he could forget the past and pitch a solid game against ex-Indian Jeriome Robertson and the visiting Louisville Bats on May 19.

And that's exactly what he did!

Guthrie allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings as the Indians pounded the Bats, 6-1.

Guthrie was beaming with delight as he relished the performance that, hopefully, once and for all removed the demons that have haunted him in Buffalo.

"Confidence is a big thing for me and I really haven't had much of it when I pitched here in the past," Guthrie admitted. "I'm still trying to build it up. It's an on-going process. I just have to keep working and build on the moment."

Bisons pitching coach Ken Rowe says, "Jeremy's last three games have kind of shown us what he is all about and what he can do. It is something for him to build off and I think he is just going to do nothing but get better from this point on. Hopefully, this will serve as a springboard for him."

Rowe says that outwardly Guthrie now has the confidence necessary for him to be successful. "Inwardly, I would say I don't know if it is there yet. You'd have to ask him that."

Guthrie insists he does, mainly because he now has confidence that his fastball, when located properly, is good enough for him to succeed at any level.

"Early in the season, I was throwing the same mix of pitches I am now, but when I missed with my fastball, they were up around the belt or around the thigh," he said.

"Now, when I'm missing with my pitches, they are down and I'm getting ground balls as opposed to doubles in the gap. When the pitch is down, you still stand a good chance of getting the guy out even if the pitch is over the middle of the plate. But when you leave the pitch up at the belt, even if it is on the black, there is a pretty good chance it is going to get hit."

Bisons manager Marty Brown agrees that location of Guthrie's fastball is vital.

"The key for Jeremy is his fastball and it is always going to be that way for him," Brown said. "When he can spot his fastball, he can work everything else off of that.

"When he pitches ahead in the count, hitters have a problem staying on the late movement he has with all of his pitches. He realizes he needs to be more of a pitcher than a thrower. In his last three outings, he has been more of a pitcher."

Guthrie no longer is trying to paint the corners with every pitch. When he tries to be too fine, the natural movement on his fastball often makes the ball tail off the plate, thus resulting in his getting behind in the count.

"Young pitchers sometimes have a tendency to watch so much television that they see these guys throwing the ball on the corner all of the time," Rowe said. "The guys who throw the ball on the corner all of the time have to do that. Jeremy has good enough stuff and good enough movement that all he needs to do is keep the ball in the strike zone and just let the ball naturally move to the corners."

Guthrie also is learning to forget the past.

"Jeremy has a tendency to over-analyze every pitch," Brown said. "He would analyze each and every pitch as opposed to just looking at the hitter and saying, `This is how I am going to get him out.' "

Guthrie knows he still has a long way to go to live up to the expectations placed upon him when he was selected in the first round. "It's an on-going process," he said. "I'm trying to build on the confidence I have gained. I'm very delighted with how things have gone the last three games."

Likewise for the Indians organization and Tribe fans everywhere.

JEREMY GUTHRIE'S PROFESSIONAL PITCHING CAREER:

Yr

Team

Age

W

L

ERA

G

GS

IP

H

BB

SO

03

Akron

24

6

2

1.44

10

9

62.2

44

14

35

03

Buffalo

24

4

9

6.52

18

18

96.2

129

30

62

04

Buffalo

25

1

2

7.91

4

4

19.1

23

18

10

04

Akron

25

8

8

4.21

23

21

130.1

145

42

94

04

Cleveland

25

0

0

4.63

6

0

11.2

9

6

7

05

Buffalo

26

3

4

5.72

8

8

39.1

44

19

24

Pro Totals

22

25

4.73

69

60

360

394

129

232

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