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Guthrie an easy pick for Opening Day

Guthrie an easy pick for Opening Day

When Baltimore manager Dave Trembley began deliberating who he wanted to pitch on Opening Day, he kept on coming back to one name and one sentiment. Trembley tabbed Jeremy Guthrie for the season opener late in Spring Training, but the skipper had the starter in mind early and has held him in high regard for several years.

Trembley loves to tell the story of when he met Guthrie, who was pitching in Cleveland's organization at the time. The manager speaks about seeing the youngster jog around town and knowing that he had everything in control. And three years later, they're in the same clubhouse and preparing for their first Opening Day experience in their present roles.

"He's humbled by it -- very appreciative," Trembley said recently of Guthrie. "My relationship goes back with him a long way in the Minor Leagues. The last time I told him anything remotely like this was when I managed the [Double-A] Eastern League All-Star game in 2004. I had six pitchers on my club in that All-Star game, yet I named him the starting pitcher.

"He said, 'Why are you doing that? You've got six guys on your team that you could name.' I said, 'Because you're the best pitcher in the league.' "

Guthrie remembers that moment the same way and said it meant a lot to him at the time.

"That's where our relationship began," he said of Trembley. "He was the same guy then as he is today, very positive with all those guys that were fortunate enough to be voted to the All-Star team. ... There were a number of great pitchers there, many of which are in the Major Leagues today. It is neat for myself and him to come to this moment."

Of course, a lot has happened since Guthrie was pitching at Double-A Akron and Trembley was managing for Double-A Bowie. The Indians ran out of patience while waiting for Guthrie to develop, and the Orioles took Trembley's suggestion to explore acquiring the right-hander on a waiver claim before the 2007 season.

The former first-round Draft pick finally found his groove in Baltimore, and he earned a bullpen job with a strong Spring Training. Guthrie eventually moved into the rotation after several injuries and pitched well enough to keep the job, finishing the season ranked second among American League rookies in ERA (3.70) strikeouts (123) and innings (175 1/3).

Now, as Guthrie tries to take the next step, he has a new mentor in pitching coach Rick Kranitz, formerly of the Florida Marlins. Kranitz has been focusing on Guthrie's arsenal, doing everything to make sure his stuff holds up. For now, that means stressing the changeup more and making sure that Guthrie can use it interchangeably with his fastball.

"He's really focused on the changeup," said Guthrie. "I guess that's the biggest change, trying to get more comfortable with that pitch. ... I think he still understands that the fastball is the key to every other pitch and he thinks with the fastball and changeup, I can be more effective. They are similar pitches. They come out of the hand, hopefully the same, and they have a similar rotation. That's the weapon he has really expressed with me."

Kranitz has been similarly impressed with Guthrie, and he said the 28-year-old had a predictably low-key reaction when told of his Opening Day assignment. Guthrie took the news in stride, and Kranitz seems encouraged by his attitude.

"If [Guthrie] is [overwhelmed], then he'll be better at it next year," Kranitz said, speaking about the Opening Day atmosphere. "He's got to get the experience somewhere. It is Opening Day, but it's one game. That's all it is, one game. I don't have any [reservations], not from what I've seen. He has a plan, he has a routine and sticks by that religiously. It's worked."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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