Guthrie hopes tweak in bullpen session helps

Guthrie hopes tweak in bullpen session helps

Guthrie hopes tweak in bullpen session helps
DENVER -- Jeremy Guthrie went from the loneliness that came with an awful outing in Phoenix on Tuesday night to plenty of company for what is usually a private activity on Friday.

For Guthrie's bullpen session at Coors Field, Rockies hitters Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr. stood in the batter's box. The plan was to have Guthrie execute pitches at close to game conditions. The hitters didn't swing, but their presence gave him something more than the catcher's target in his field of vision.

Against the D-backs, any hitter was a dangerous one. Guthrie gave up seven runs on 11 hits, including two home runs, in just 3 1/3 innings of the 10-0 loss.

Afterward, Guthrie said he understood if the Rockies wanted to remove him from the rotation but later said it was just his personality speaking. The next day, manager Jim Tracy told him in a meeting that the Rockies acquired him from the Orioles before the season to eat innings and help lead the staff, and that hasn't changed.

So Guthrie is preparing for a start Tuesday against the Athletics, using the presence of someone in the batter's box as a hitting tool, which he said he has done before. With an extra day between starts, he could simulate the attack mode that he needs in a game and command pitches.

"It's nice to be able to squeeze in a session there where you can attack a hitter -- it's more than a bullpen but not as much as a game," Guthrie said. "You simulate closer to a game than you'd get in a standard bullpen."

The loss to the D-backs dropped Guthrie to 3-4 with a 6.35 ERA, with 12 home runs and 19 walks against 23 strikeouts. More startling is Guthrie is averaging 5 2/3 innings a start. For a team with an overworked bullpen, that's not good enough. And it's not a normal pattern for Guthrie, who has reached or exceeded 200 innings the past three years with the Orioles.

"We're trying to get Jeremy Guthrie to surface the way we know he's capable of surfacing," Tracy said. "We're actually challenging him to the point that if he does -- and I really believe he's capable of doing that -- how capable are we of being better than we've been in the past."

Guthrie said he has boiled the problem down to executing pitches, especially earlier in the count. Before his last start, pitching coach Bob Apodaca noticed a balance issue at the beginning of his delivery. Guthrie said focusing on that didn't fix the problem with his pitches, so he's going to simply concentrate on putting the pitch on target, with the belief that mechanics will fall into place.

"I'm not far away," Guthrie said. "I just need to be better in the zone early in the count, and make whatever mental and physical adjustments to be able to do that more consistently. I don't need to overhaul anything; just work on it, get some more confidence as I do it more often and see things change."