Jeremy Guthrie can be considered a late bloomer on many levels. His baseball career stalled at BYU in 1998 before he took two years off to travel to Spain on a Mormon mission. He transferred to Stanford when he returned to the United States and posted 13-2 record and a 2.51 ERA in 2002, setting the school's single-season school record for innings pitched in (157 2/3) and catching the eyes of Major League scouts.
The Indians drafted Guthrie with the 22nd overall pick. Guthrie bounced in and out of the bullpen in the Tribe's organization and was brought up three times in 2006 before he was designated for assignment. He signed with the Orioles to fill a spot in the 'pen before moving into the starting rotation in May and he has responded with a breakout season. Currently 7-4 with a 3.46 ERA, the rookie right-hander recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: You've recently hit a rough patch in what's been your breakthrough year. How have you dealt with this latest taste of adversity?
Guthrie: It was a stretch of games where I haven't been able to make the big pitch with two outs and that's cost me some runs. As I watched the video, the execution was very close to where it was. Things just didn't go my way, so that's good for your confidence to keep working. You don't need to make huge changes, just keep going. It's a very long season and that's what they'll tell you is a big adjustment to the Major Leagues. It's been a great run and hopefully I can finish this as strong as I started.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Overall, your career has stabilized and the best appears to be still ahead of you. What's been the key to your breakthrough?
Guthrie: I've had a little more confidence in myself and the ability to get people out by letting them hit the ball. Working ahead of the count has been very important to me, so I need to get back to that. You attack the guys and get ahead and you make them get on the defensive.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Pitching coach Leo Mazzone has a great track record with pitchers. How has he helped you turn it around?
Guthrie: He has so much knowledge and so much experience that it automatically gives you confidence in what he teaches you and the anecdotes he gives you. For me, it's been a good relationship. He has the right things to say when I'm on the mound and between starts. It's a real nice relationship that's really clicked well.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is he somebody who tinkers with your mechanics or is it simply positive reinforcement?
Guthrie: It's a lot of positive reinforcement. He'll make an adjustment if he needs to, but he's not a guy who has a single recipe for everybody. With me, it hasn't been any mechanics. It's been the philosophies of pitching and the reinforcement.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your ERA in your last season at BYU in 1998 was 6.10. Then you took two years off before a stellar career at Stanford. Did the Mormon mission to Spain give you new perspective on baseball and in life?
Guthrie: One hundred percent. It was two years that you can't duplicate. Thinking about everybody other than yourself for two years and sharing the message was important for me. I grew a lot and I wouldn't be here without those two years.
Some people ask would my development have gone better had I not taken the two years off and the answer is undeniably no. There's no chance. I was twice the pitcher I was when I came home and that's obviously a huge blessing.
MLBPLAYERS.com: With the Cleveland Indians organization, you were moved in and out of the bullpen. Did it seem like they didn't know what to do with you? Was it frustrating for you?
Guthrie: I think they just got caught in a tough situation. I struggled for a couple of years and their pitchers in the Major Leagues, when I began to pitch better, were so consistent that there wasn't a lot of opportunity. It was frustrating because I wanted to be a starter and there wasn't a chance. Time just kind of expired on me, so I've moved on.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You were called up three times last year and then designated for assignment in January. Did you sign with Baltimore with a chip on your shoulder?
Guthrie: No, just with a lot of confidence. Last year was my best Minor League season and then I went down to the Dominican Republic for one month and had a very good month. So when I got a new chance, I was very confident. I was hoping for a fair shot, which I thought Baltimore would give me based on what they told me. Also, I knew the Orioles didn't have quite as much depth as there was in the Cleveland organization. It was a nice, perfect fit.
MLBPLAYERS.com: The Orioles have had an up-and-down season. How is the vibe on the team despite a sub-.500 record?
Guthrie: We have a great group of guys - we really do. From the veterans to the younger guys, it's just a really nice mix. You see the flashes of brilliance we have as a team. We just need to be a little more consistent and I think that this team is a great, great team we can hopefully build around with a couple of more key components. It would be fun to be a part of it.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You're part of a promising young rotation. How confident are you in the foundation of this pitching staff?
Guthrie: I'm very confident. The key thing about the guys on this staff is that everybody works hard and nobody is content where they are. That's what it takes -- continually getting better and working at it.
MLBPLAYERS.com: The Orioles are approaching their 10th straight season under .500, but teammate Kevin Millar is so optimistic about the foundation here, he said publicly, "Don't trade me." Can this be the season where you look back and say it's the start of something big in Baltimore and a return to glory?
Guthrie: I think so. Kevin is a key component of any team, as you saw in Boston. He wants to win, and is frustrated when he doesn't win, and it takes that from a leader.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's been the biggest difference since Dave Trembley took over?
Guthrie: He's a great communicator. He builds you up when you perform and do the little things. That can continue to build confidence and excitement for the game.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You grew up in small-town Roseburg, Ore., and recently lived in Las Vegas before moving to Utah. What was it like residing in Sin City?
Guthrie: It was nice when you remove yourself from the Strip. It's very clean and new, and everything you need is within a mile it feels like.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.