VIERA, Fla. -- Jeremy Guthrie may go back from representing his country to representing his team. The Orioles have lodged a request to have Guthrie return early from his stint with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, which would allow him to resume his preparations for his role as Baltimore's staff ace.

Guthrie, who started on Opening Day for the Orioles last year and appears to be a lock to do it again in 2009, has had a rough go of it with Team USA. The right-hander has made two appearances and has allowed 14 hits and 10 runs, and Baltimore wants to get him back into a normal routine before the season starts.

"The sooner the better for us and for him. We need to get him going," said pitching coach Rick Kranitz. "I talked to him and he's ready to go. He's ready to come back, and he's ready to join us and pitch. They're playing two games and they're taking more time off. They don't need four starters now and there's no need for him to be there. It's all great to go there and root for your team, but you know what? We need to get our staff squared away."

Guthrie took a flight to Los Angeles with Team USA for the semifinals of the event, but the Orioles are hoping he'll catch a flight back to Florida and start on either Sunday or Monday. And when he returns, that will be one less spot for Baltimore -- which has at least three rotation vacancies -- to worry about.

"There's no need for him to just hang out there," said Kranitz. "He needs to get back here and he needs to pitch. We've got three more outings and then the season starts. He needs to catch up on his innings. It's not so much the pitch total as it is the amount of times he's been up and down. We need to get him back."

Baltimore is also doing without shortstop Cesar Izturis and third baseman Melvin Mora, both of whom are playing for Team Venezuela. But the need is more acute for starting pitching, and the Orioles want to do everything they can to protect themselves while also showing respect to the needs of the World Baseball Classic.

"I think it's great for baseball, but I think we'd be less than honest if we said we didn't want our guys with our team," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "And like I told Jeremy Guthrie when he first asked me about the [World Baseball Classic], I said, 'It's a great opportunity and you should do what's best for yourself.'

"That's the key now. Guthrie ought to do what's best for himself. Is he going to pitch again in the [Classic]? Highly unlikely. Then the decision has to be made that perhaps it's time for him to start getting ready for the season, but I don't want to be disrespectful to the [Classic] and what they're trying to do."