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Guthrie, O's draw positives from latest start

Guthrie, O's draw positives from latest start

JUPITER, Fla. -- "Much better" is a phrase manager Dave Trembley used four times in a three-minute postgame interview regarding Jeremy Guthrie's most recent and, up to now, most important start in the Orioles' 5-2 loss to the Marlins on Tuesday.

The righty wasn't particularly dominant. Guthrie struggled to finish innings, and he made the opposing pitcher look like Tony Gwynn on back-to-back plate appearances. But the Orioles are at a point in Spring Training when they'll take basically any sort of progress from their projected No. 2 starter.

Tuesday's start against the Marlins provided just that.

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The outing saw the 30-year-old right-hander give up two runs on six hits in five innings, walking two and striking out four while also decreasing his Grapefruit League ERA from 9.28 to 7.47 in his fifth start -- a span of 15 2/3 innings.

"I thought it was a little better," said Guthrie, who came in having given up 10 runs in his previous 6 1/3 innings. "I thought I was more consistently down in the zone. ... That's the biggest thing for me when I get in trouble is I just make poor pitches up in the zone, and guys pound those. That's got to be No. 1 for me every time I go out."

Guthrie retired the leadoff hitter in each of his five innings, but he struggled early while pitching with two outs, causing his pitch count to increase to 91 (56 for strikes) by the time his start was complete.

In the first inning, Guthrie gave up a two-out walk to Hanley Ramirez, a stolen base and an RBI single to Jorge Cantu. In the second, Brett Hayes doubled off him, and Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco followed with a single to left field to give Florida a 2-1 lead. The next time Nolasco came to the plate, he walked on four straight pitches.

"He got the leadoff guys out, and we have to do a better job of getting the third out," said Trembley. "A two-out walk and a hit by the pitcher, that's not going to happen [during the season]. Guthrie is not going to let that happen.

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"The one he struck [Cameron] Maybin out on, that's Jeremy Guthrie. He had sink, he ran the ball right into his hands. So it's there."

Coming off representing Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Guthrie had a horrid Spring Training, posting a 10.56 ERA in just over 15 innings. That was followed by a rough regular season in which he led the American League in losses (17) and sported a 5.04 ERA.

After he gave up six earned runs in a three-inning stint against the Blue Jays on Thursday, pitching coach Rick Kranitz worked with Guthrie on his release point.

"What we're looking for from him is to get the ball down -- what's the best way for him to get the ball down," Kranitz said. "I thought that in these last two starts of his, the release point was a little higher than normal. And so we just tried to get it to the point where it's a little more of a comfortable three-quarter arm slot, where it was easier for him and more natural for him to keep the ball down in that slot."

After the game, Guthrie spent a good amount of time with a heat pad on his lower back in the trainer's room, but he said there's nothing wrong with his back.

Guthrie also wasn't particularly down on himself because Nolasco got an RBI single against him, saying, "It doesn't bother me any more than if the No. 4 hitter got a base hit with a man on second and two outs."

And though he only has two more tune-up starts before he makes his regular-season debut against the Rays on April 7, Guthrie said he'll "for sure" be ready to go once that point rolls around.

Tuesday's outing sure helped provide that mentality.

"I definitely wanted to pitch well," Guthrie said. "It wasn't a great outing, but it was productive. The biggest thing that's been plaguing me is lack of movement and being up in the zone consistently. Those were two things that I felt like I did better."

Alden Gonzalez 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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