It has been a busy off-season for Ashland's Jeremy Guthrie, and December isn't even over yet.

BALTIMORE — It has been a busy off-season for Ashland's Jeremy Guthrie, and December isn't even over yet.

The Major League pitcher, who lives in Utah, was in Ashland to visit relatives for a few days over Thanksgiving and took time out for a family photograph.

The Baltimore Orioles right-handed starter was in Las Vegas during the winter meetings, where his former catcher, Ramon Hernandez, was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

"I think Ramon will move on and have a good season," Guthrie told the Daily Tidings from his home in Utah on Dec. 12. "It is nice to see the moves the Orioles are making."

And during his stay in Vegas he personally told super agent Scott Boras, who had represented Guthrie since the early days of his pro career, that his services were no longer needed.

The trade of Hernandez opens the door for catcher Matt Wieters, who is considered one of the top prospects in minor league baseball. The Orioles, according to published reports, are not sure if Wieters will begin 2009 in the majors or minors.

Wieters began the 2008 season with Class A Frederick of the Carolina League and was then promoted to Class AA Bowie of the Eastern League in the middle of the season. Both teams are in Maryland. Wieters hit a combined .355 with 27 homers and was named Baseball America's minor league player of the year.

Guthrie said he threw once to Wieters during spring training in 2008. "I was impressed with him. He handles the ball well," said Guthrie, an Ashland High graduate.

"For us this trade was more about Matt Wieters, frankly," Orioles president Andy MacPhail told reporters.

In the deal Baltimore acquired major league utility man Ryan Freel and two minor league prospects.

"I think Ryan is a hard-working player," Guthrie said. "That will be a good addition to the team."

The Orioles, according to published reports, are making a bid to land free agent slugger Mark Teixeira. He grew up in Severna Park, Md., and ended last season with the Angels.

"They are making a run for him," Guthrie said. "It would be something for the fans. Mark is a very special player."

Guthrie began his off-season throwing program Dec. 12 at his home in Utah, where he tosses the ball to willing neighbors in the early stages of a detailed plan he has followed for several years.

Guthrie was the top starting pitcher for the Orioles in 2008. The openind day starter, he finished the year with a record of 10-12 with an ERA of 3.63 in 30 starts.

He is one of the few solid starters the Orioles have as of Dec. 12 with spring training about two months away. "I think it is important to have a couple of arms to lessen the load," Guthrie said.

Guthrie told the Baltimore Sun there was no specific incident why he let Boras go and decided to have Casey Close and Brodie Van Wagenen as his agents. "I think Scott has done a phenomenal job, but moving forward, I felt Casey and Brodie are a better fit for me and my career," he told the paper.

Guthrie told Boras in person on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas of his decision. Close and Van Wagenen represent Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals), Derek Jeter (Yankees) and Ryan Howard (Phillies), among others.

"We think Jeremy Guthrie has a chance to be a front-line major league pitcher, and we believe he is a fine person," Boras told The Sun. Guthrie made $770,000 last year and is eligible for arbitration after the 2009 season, according to the paper.

David Driver is a free-lance writer in Maryland. He can be reached through his website at www.davidsdriver.com