It was a day fit more for flying a kite than for trying to throw a baseball past Major League hitters.
SARASOTA, Fla. — It was a day fit more for flying a kite than for trying to throw a baseball past Major League hitters. But Ashland High School graduate Jeremy Guthrie, a right-handed starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, felt good about his spring training debut here Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Guthrie started and pitched two scoreless innings as the Orioles beat the Rays 12-2 on a windy, chilly day on the west coast of Florida. He allowed one hit with one walk and two strikeouts.
Among the 5,328 fans in attendance at the spring training opener Wednesday was Dick Vitale, the ESPN basketball guru and a long-time Sarasota resident. Vitale has attended exhibition games for years at Ed Smith Stadium, which prior to this year was the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds.
"I felt pretty good. It is nice to be out there. It felt like I hadn't pitched in five months," Guthrie said. "It is a good one to build on. I felt very good. It has been a great start to the spring in terms of (my) stuff."
The Tampa Bay lineup that he faced was shortstop Jason Barlett, catcher Dioner Navarro, second baseman Ben Zobrist, center fielder B.J. Upton, right fielder Matt Joyce, DH Kelly Shoppach, third baseman Dan Johnson, first baseman Ryan Shealy and left fielder and left fielder Justin Ruggiano.
Guthrie retired Bartlett on a grounder then allowed a single to Navarro. He then retired Zobrist on a liner to left and Upton on a fly ball to right to get out of the first inning. Miguel Tejada, the Oriole third baseman, made a nice play to lead off the game on the ball hit by Barlett.
"I think he is going to be a great third baseman," Guthrie said of Tejada, who played short for the Orioles before going to the Houston Astros in a trade before the 2008 season. "He will be great for us."
He walked Joyce to lead off the second and then struck out Shoppach looking. Joyce was thrown out trying to steal second and Johnson fanned swinging to end the top of the second and the first outing of the spring for Guthrie.
The Ashland High graduate threw 33 pitches, 22 for strikes against the Rays, who left some of its top regulars such as Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena back in Tampa. Oriole pitchers were aided by six homers, with two each from Josh Bell and Rhyne Hughes.
The Orioles spent 14 years at Ft. Lauderdale for spring training before making the move to Sarasota. "The big thing is it is exciting for the fans," Guthrie said. "That means a lot to them."
Last spring Guthrie missed time with the Orioles while playing for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic. That will not be the case this year. "It is absolutely going to benefit everyone," he said. "It will be a tremendous benefit for me" to have a regular schedule with the Orioles.
Guthrie, who turns 31 on April 8, is a 6-foot-1, three-year MLB veteran who lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah during the winter.
Last season Guthrie was 10-17 with an ERA of 5.04 in 33 starts. In 200 innings of work he allowed 224 hits and had one complete game.
The Orioles hope the addition of free agent pitcher Kevin Millwood will take some of the load off of Guthrie, who has been considered the ace of the staff the previous two years.
Guthrie told reporters before exhibition games began that the addition of Millwood would not change his approach. But Oriole manager Dave Trembley said that Millwood will help out Guthrie, who watched several rookie pitchers join the rotation for Baltimore in 2009.
A former Stanford standout, Guthrie made his big league debut with Cleveland before he came to the Orioles.
David Driver is a free-lance writer from Maryland. He can be reached through his website at www.davidsdriver.com