That's right, Opening Day 2008 has finally arrived. It can be hard to remain optimistic when you've dealt with ten straight losing seasons and traded away the two biggest stars on your team. It's tough to maintain a rosy outlook when the big names and bigger budgets of your division rivals put you at a disadvantage right from the start. It's not easy to hold onto hope when the crowds at the ballpark get smaller and more apathetic every year. But until the first game has ended, everyone is on equal footing, and anything can happen. Just ask today's starting pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie.
Jeremy was the #1 draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2002, taken 22nd overall from Stanford University. Incidentally, two of his current teammates - Adam Loewen (4th) and Scott Moore (8th) were chosen ahead of him. Despite his considerable talent and high expectations, he never got comfortable with the Tribe. The team didn't give him much of a look, burning through his options in three seasons (2004-2006) while using him in just sixteen major league games, all but one out of the bullpen. In a small sample size (36 innings), he did not perform very well (6.25 ERA) and seemed to suffer a crisis of confidence.
When the Indians tried to pass him through waivers in the Winter of 2007, Orioles scout Dave Hollins and new bullpen coach Dave Trembley insisted that the Orioles should claim him. Trembley had managed against Guthrie in the minor leagues, and new that he had some great stuff. The 28-year-old righthander was virtually unknown to most O's fans, but he earned a spot on the team last year with an impressive Spring, allowing just two earned runs and striking out fourteen in fifteen innings. Though he started the regular season as a long reliever, injuries to most of the team's starters gave him a chance to crack the rotation and to really show what he could do. He earned considerable Rookie of the Year buzz with a ten-game unbeaten streak (though poor run support and a shaky bullpen conspired to give him just three wins in that span), and his ERA was below 3.00 until an August swoon. His final tally included a 7-5 record, a 3.70 ERA, and a 1.21 WHIP that placed him ninth among all qualifying AL pitchers.
In just one season, Jeremy Guthrie went from a forgotten prospect in Cleveland to a fixture in the Baltimore rotation. Today he makes his first Opening Day start, and hopefully he'll be able to build on all that he accomplished in 2007.