When Jeremy Guthrie came to Baltimore as a member of the Kansas City Royals last August it wasn’t his turn to pitch.
So he watched four games, signed autographs and soaked in the atmosphere from the visiting side.
On Thursday night, the right-hander is scheduled to take the mound at Camden Yards and face the Orioles for the first time in his career after spending five seasons in orange and black.
“It’s great -- fond memories, great coming back to the fans,” said Guthrie, who was 47-65 with a 4.12 ERA in 161 games with the Orioles from 2007 to 2011. “The [fans] I interact with are great. Very positive. It’s just nice to come back here.”
The Orioles dealt Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies in February 2012 for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. Guthrie didn’t last long in Colorado, going 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA in 19 games before being traded to Kansas City in July for Jonathan Sanchez.
“In Colorado, I actually felt really good. I just never got the results. I never got in a groove in Colorado and just really, really struggled,” Guthrie said. “It was just a matter of getting confidence back, getting some positive outings under my belt and kind of just knowing I can do it now.”
Once he returned to the American League, Guthrie thrived. He was 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 games for the Royals last year and then signed a three-year, $25 million deal in November to stay in Kansas City.
So far this year he has been superb – posting a 4-0 record and a 2.40 ERA in six starts.
“The difference is he's far better than I ever imagined he was,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “He still has a great fastball at 93 mph that he spots. And he can sink it, he can cut it. His slider is very good. His changeup is very good. I just think he's comfortable in his surroundings.”
Guthrie’s career in Baltimore was marked with poor run support and, consequently, two seasons in which he led the league in losses while serving as the club’s de facto ace. In Kansas City, he is pitching as the Royals’ No. 3. He’s not asked to carry the team, just keep his club in games, although he said he doesn’t view his responsibilities any differently.
“To me, I don’t prepare any different. I take the same approach no matter where I am at,” he said. “That’s something you have to do. Go out every fifth day and compete and give your team the best shot to win.”
In his time in Baltimore, Guthrie never played on a club that had a record better than 69-93. Last year, the Orioles were 93-69 without Guthrie. But there’s no bitterness, he said. He was thrilled for his old teammates.
“It was awesome. I knew that the team was good. When I was traded I knew they got two good guys in return for me in addition to what they already had. I was excited for them, because I believed we could do it the year before,” he said. “ was fun to watch and I was proud of all those guys just to see them compete for six months and be so strong.”
On Thursday, he’ll be trying to beat them and keep his 16 2/3 scoreless innings streak and nine-game personal winning streak intact. It’ll be nothing personal, he says.
“These guys, they are friends. And people I enjoyed playing with,” said Guthrie who, after Thursday, will have faced every team in the majors besides the Los Angeles Dodgers. “And there’s actually quite a few new faces [in Baltimore], even from two years ago. I’ll enjoy the opportunity, but I won’t approach it any differently by any stretch.”