Jeremy Guthrie is trying not to treat these starts as auditions. He knows that the Orioles' front office is seeking help for a starting rotation that has been torn apart by injuries. He realizes he remains in the rotation on a start-by-start basis, and a couple of missteps could send him back to the bullpen in no time.
But Guthrie, a former top prospect who is still trying to establish himself as a major leaguer, learned long ago that there is no use worrying about things he can't control. As he said last week: "I just need to get guys out."
Guthrie accomplished that task last night, stating his case to remain in the rotation with six solid innings of one-run ball in the Orioles' 8-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before 17,818 at Camden Yards.
"He was outstanding," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He worked quick, he threw strikes. ... He had great stuff, he really did. He threw the heck out of his fastball, had good breaking stuff. It was a pleasure to watch him."
Guthrie allowed six hits, walked none and struck out two, frequently relying on his defense to keep him out of trouble. In two starts this season, the 28-year-old right-hander, whom the Orioles picked up off waivers from the Cleveland Indians, has allowed two earned runs in 11 innings.
With starters Jaret Wright and Adam Loewen out for the foreseeable future, Guthrie appears to have a much firmer grip on a rotation spot than Brian Burres does.
"[Pitching coach] Leo [Mazzone] said today: 'You're not auditioning. Relax, have fun, '" Guthrie said. "He said that right as I left the bullpen, so that was nice.
"I had enough auditions in Cleveland and felt like hopefully I got the bad ones out of the way. I really did feel like every time I threw there in three years was always an audition. Today was relaxed."
Last night, Guthrie left after throwing 67 pitches and the Orioles enjoying what seemed to be a comfortable 5-1 lead.
"He was tired," Perlozzo said of his starter. "You've got to realize he hadn't pitched in a while. Sixty pitches is a lot, plus he had been up and down six times, you've got to take that into consideration. ... He was gassed when he came in."
Perlozzo brought in Chad Bradford in the seventh and things started to get dicey. Bradford, who was part of the bullpen's meltdown a night earlier, gave up a leadoff single to B.J. Upton and then, after striking out Delmon Young, allowed another single to Carlos Pena.
Dioner Navarro and Brendan Harris followed with RBI singles, trimming the Orioles' lead to 5-3. But Bradford got out of the inning without further damage.
The Orioles (15-18) tacked a run onto their lead with former Devil Ray Aubrey Huff's seventh-inning double and then broke the game open with a two-run eighth inning. They had 13 hits, with Jay Gibbons and Miguel Tejada notching three each.
Gibbons, who before the game expressed frustration with his lack of playing time, was in a 3-for-37 slump. The hits, along with his second homer of the season, are a good start to ending it.
"Just to be playing is fun. Getting a hit is more fun. It's a good win," he said. "We needed to win tonight. ... I just hope playing time comes more often now."
Nick Markakis hit a two-run homer in the second inning as the Orioles knocked out Tampa Bay starter Jae Seo after three innings.
After getting only one run in seven innings against Indians starter Fausto Carmona in Monday's 10-1 loss, the Orioles were happy to see Seo. Since the start of last season, opponents are batting over .320 against the 29-year-old South Korean.
Seo allowed five earned runs on six hits, a walk and a hit batter.
His trouble started early when he hit Markakis with one out in the first and then allowed a single to Tejada.
After Tejada was out on Ramon Hernandez's fielder's choice, Seo issued a five-pitch walk to Huff to load the bases.
Melvin Mora dropped a single in front of left fielder Carl Crawford, and Markakis and Hernandez scored.
Pena's RBI double in second inning cut the Orioles' lead to 2-1. In the bottom half, Gibbons got the Orioles started with a leadoff single. Seo got two quick outs, but then served up a long two-run homer on his first pitch to Markakis.
The right fielder's fourth home run landed deep onto the flag court in right field and then bounced on Eutaw Street as fans gave chase. It was Markakis' first home run since April 18, also against Tampa Bay.
The Orioles took a 5-1 lead on Jay Payton's RBI two-out triple in the third. The ball hit high off the scoreboard in right field and was nearly Payton's second homer. It scored Mora, who had reached on a fielder's choice. The Orioles' first five runs all scored on two-out RBIs.
It was then left up to Guthrie to hold the lead. He got plenty of help.
Mora and Brian Roberts turned a nice double play on Elijah Dukes to end the third. Guthrie also started his own double play on Upton, the American League's leading hitter, to end the fourth.
Mora made a nifty pickup on Young's grounder to get the first out of the fifth and then did the same on Rocco Baldelli for the first out of the sixth.
"This game was dictated by Melvin's plays. Three of those balls could have went for leadoff singles or doubles," Guthrie said. " ... He played unbelievable. This game was completely changed by the way Melvin played."
The sixth inning also featured a mistake by the umpiring crew that cost the Devil Rays a run.
Crawford's two-out drive hit the top of the fence in center field, then deflected off the wall behind the fence and bounced back in the play. It should have a home run and not a double, but despite protests from Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon and third base coach Tom Foley, it was called a double.
Guthrie then got out of the sixth by getting Ty Wigginton on a groundout to Mora.