This is not the way the Orioles opening day starter envisioned his 2009 campaign.
Jeremy Guthrie suffered his 11th loss of the season last night in Detroit despite pitching one of his better games in ’09. Afterwards, rather than face the media at his locker, he simply gave an O’s PR staffer a few sentences and asked that the club throw together a quick “press release” of his comments for distribution to the media.
Back in May, I chronicled Guthrie’s early season struggles at WNST.net and mentioned that an O’s associate felt the opening day starter had become “distant” and “impersonal” with teammates and coaches.
Guthrie’s season started in March with a rocky performance for the United States team in the World Baseball Classic. Two weeks before the regular season opener vs. the Yankees, Guthrie learned that the Orioles – taking advantage of an optional allowance in his contract – had actually reduced his salary by 15% ($120,000) for 2009.
That, the team associate says now, is still likely to be the main source of the pitcher’s current air of discontent with the club.
“It started with his poor performance in the WBC, but when he found out the team cut him by 15% I think he really lost a lot of enthusiasm for the season,” says the associate. “He saw the money they spent on some other pitchers and the money they gave Koji and I can only imagine his pay reduction didn’t sit well based on those factors.”
There have been whispers that perhaps Guthrie and manager Dave Trembley aren’t exactly on each other’s Holiday card list and that, too, might be a contributing factor to his disappointing ’09.
“Look, he’s given up 27 home runs, so it’s not like bad luck is the biggest reason why his numbers are off,” explains the O’s associate. “But to pitch consistently at the big league level, you have to have your head on straight every 5th day and I don’t think his head’s been on straight since day one. And I don’t think it’s that he dislikes Dave Trembley — but I think Jeremy is a guy who looks at every single thing about the team when he starts. He looks at the lineup he’s working with — offensively — and he looks at things like who’s catching, who’s behind him defensively, etc. And maybe he’s seen some things this year, decisions from Trembley, that haven’t sat well with him on a start-by-start basis.”
Wednesday night was particularly aggravating for Guthrie, who shut down the Tigers in Detroit, allowing just one run through 7 innings of work, only to see the team’s bats fizzle as Edwin Jackson baffled the Birds into the 9th inning.
“For Jeremy to not speak with the media afterwards, that definitely means he was probably thinking, ‘I’d better not say what’s on my mind or I’ll be in hot water’, so he sent the PR staff out with a press release to pass on to the media,” the associate says. “What bothered him about last night’s start, I don’t know, but that was a rare thing for him to do.”
Guthrie, meanwhile, could be a valuable trade commodity for the Birds in the upcoming off-season if the team’s young pitchers continue to excel over the last two months of the season. “I think Jeremy is a good major league pitcher,” the associate said. “And honestly, I think getting rid of him would be a mistake. If he goes to the National League, he might be dominant. Remember, he’s pitched well for the most part since coming to Baltimore and he’s done that in the American League East. He’s a quality pitcher with good major-league stuff. I just think his head got foggy to start the season and he hasn’t recovered from any of it yet.”