Notes: Guthrie set to make his O's debut
Right-hander will fill in while Wright is on the disabled list
BALTIMORE -- Jeremy Guthrie understands the situation and he understands his role. The right-hander is thrilled that he'll get the chance to make his first start of the season Sunday, but he knows that he's a temporary patch. Guthrie just wants to pitch well while Jaret Wright's out and set himself up for similar future opportunities.
"If you think of it as an audition, it's a do-or-die type situation," he said Saturday, one day before his scheduled start. "And it's not [an audition] in any sense, I don't think. It's me stepping in [and] trying to fill in for the team and help us out. At the same time, hopefully I pitch well enough that I can fill that role anytime it's necessary this year."
"Well, he was here, No. 1," added Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo when asked why Guthrie was his primary choice to start in Wright's absence. "And we had stretched him out to three innings. ...He pitched very well in the spring, and he was kind of a guy we envisioned being our long guy or fill-in starter."
That's a busy role in Baltimore, because projected starter Kris Benson went down with a partially torn rotator cuff before Spring Training even started. That opened the door even wider for a long man to make the team, and Wright's fragile injury history made it prudent for the Orioles to cover themselves with a contingency plan.
Guthrie has thrown multi-inning relief stints in both of Wright's starts, and the former first-round pick said he won't have much trouble upping his pitch-count. Guthrie has thrown close to 50 pitches in both of his relief outings, and as an experienced swingman, he said he's had a lot of experience in working with pitch-counts.
"Last year, I got good practice at pitching with pitch-counts because I stayed in camp until the very end," he said of his final Spring Training with the Cleveland Indians. "I made only two starts in the Minor League camp and had a 55-pitch count for my first start in Triple-A.
"I never got up to 70 until June, because I got called up in April and went back down to start. I got a lot of practice at pitching with 55 or 65 pitch-counts, and I was able to go five or six [innings] in all of them but one."
Guthrie, who arrived with the Orioles as a waiver claim, spent the winter honing his changeup and gaining confidence in his other off-speed offerings. He's said a few times that he hoped a change of scenery would help him change his luck, but he also said he doesn't plan on pitching any differently when he toes the starting rubber.
"The routine's different as a starter, [but] they only told me yesterday, so I haven't had to overhaul anything," he said of his preparation habits. "It's just a little bit different. If you've got four days where you know you're not pitching, you can maybe lift more than normal and run a little bit harder early in the week, then rest up for the start [later]."
Dodging the raindrops: Baltimore practiced in a steady drizzle Saturday and expected it to rain hard during the game. And if that wasn't bad enough, the forecast for Sunday looked even more dire. Perlozzo said he's been checking with the groundskeepers for updates, but he also said his team would be prepared in case of multiple delays.
"If it happens, we'll have to have somebody," he said of the inclement weather becoming a nuisance. "We've got [Kurt] Birkins and [Brian] Burres, if we have to use them."
Perlozzo said he expected Guthrie to throw five innings Sunday, weather permitting, and said that six innings would be "a blessing." If Baltimore gets through the weekend with its bullpen intact, the team will likely option one reliever back to Triple-A Norfolk in exchange for a position player. At that point, the Orioles would likely need an outfielder.
The big picture: Perlozzo said his roster will begin to clarify itself early next week, when injured regulars Ramon Hernandez and Jay Payton get closer to returning to the lineup. Both Hernandez and Payton will meet up with the Orioles in Tampa Bay, and the decisions will make themselves shortly after that.
"There's a good chance he'll join us in Tampa to take batting practice," Perlozzo said of Hernandez. "Monday will probably be his first day of regular [batting practice]. Where he is after that, we'll take a look at him.
"I understand that Payton has stretched out his running and feels pretty good. I'm not sure he's going to be ready for the Tampa series, but I guess that's still possible. If not then, then definitely Friday."
Quotable: "[Catchers] Paul [Bako] and Alberto [Castillo] have really mixed it up, so I've been able to work with the curveball, the changeup and the slider as much or even more than I did as a starter. They really like to mix it up back there, and they've been able to keep all the pitches sharp for me." -- Guthrie on whether he'll have a more well-rounded arsenal as a starter than he did as a reliever
Coming up: The Orioles and Royals will play a Sunday series finale that pits Guthrie against Kansas City's Zack Greinke. Guthrie will be making the first of two probable starts in place of Wright.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.