Catching phenom means another change for Guthrie

BALTIMORE — Rookie phenom Matt Wieters drew a large media contingent before Friday's game here at Camden Yards, and the overflow drifted in front of the nearby locker of Orioles pitcher and Ashland High graduate Jeremy Guthrie.

"Can we expect him there every night?" Guthrie said with a smile to a public relations staffer of the Orioles after Wieters finished with the pre-game interview and then moved away.

For better or worse Wieters most likely is in Baltimore to stay, after he hit .305 in 141 at bats with Triple-A Norfolk this spring. Wieters, a switch-hitter, was named the top prospect in the minors prior to this season by industry leader Baseball America.

Wieters, who was hitless in four at bats Friday in his big league debut, will be at least the fourth catcher that Guthrie has thrown to since last September. Guthrie is slated to start here Saturday night against the Tigers and right-hander Justin Verlander, though there is no guarantee Wieters will be behind the plate for a second straight game.

"The past two years we have had the same catchers for the most part," Guthrie said before Friday's 7-2 win over Detroit before 42,704 fans as the Orioles won their fifth straight game. "It is going to be something new for myself and obviously for Matt."

Guthrie, 30, said he threw to Wieters during a side session and during one batting practice session, both in spring training earlier this year.

Wieters, a first-round draft choice in 2007 out of Georgia Tech, spent some time with the big league club before going to the minor league camp.

"He was very quiet and he worked really hard," Guthrie said. "That is two attributes you look for in a teammate."

Wieters, 23, on the first pitch of his career on defense, threw out leadoff hitter Josh Anderson on a bunt attempt in the top of the first Friday. In his first at bat in the last of the second Wieters, the No. 7 hitter in the lineup, flew out to right field against Detroit starter Dontrelle Willis after he received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Guthrie said he will sit down with Saturday's starting catcher, either Wieters or veteran Gregg Zaun, and Baltimore pitching coach Rick Kranitz before today's game and go over the opposing hitters of the first-place Tigers.

"That is what we do with every catcher, whether they have been here one day or 14 years (in the majors), like Zaun," Guthrie said. "We talk about the overall approach to each hitter."

In his last outing, at home Monday against Toronto, Guthrie got the win as he threw seven innings and allowed one run.

"I was more consistent and able to locate my pitches," said Guthrie, a Roseburg native who made his major league debut with Cleveland in 2004.

"He spots the ball well," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge, who has a team-high 12 homers, said of Guthrie. "He has good movement on all of his pitches. That is what makes you a good pitcher. He seems to know how to pitch."

Said Verlander, who is 5-2 this year, of Guthrie: "He is a power pitcher with good off-speed pitches. He has done extremely well here."

By the time Wieters arrived here in time for the game Friday, three minor league pitchers who were also with Class AAA Norfolk earlier this season had made it to The Show before Wieters. With Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez in the starting rotation for the Orioles, rookie catcher Wieters has some common faces — and arms — that he has already worked with. That is not the case with Guthrie, though the former Stanford pitcher said many Major League hurlers throw to many catchers during their career.

Last year Guthrie worked with catcher Ramon Hernandez, who was traded to the Reds after the 2008 season. This year Guthrie has thrown to catchers Zaun and Chad Moeller, the latter of whom was designated for assignment Friday.

Guthrie, now the veteran of the starting rotation, is 4-4 with an ERA of 4.90 in his 10 starts this year for the Orioles. In 60.2 innings he has allowed 65 hits (including 11 homers) and 20 walks with 35 strikeouts. On May 20 he allowed three straight homers in a game against the Yankees in New York. Last year Guthrie was 10-12 with an ERA of 3.63 in 30 starts for the Orioles.

Notes: The Orioles begin a three-game series on Monday in Seattle but Guthrie will not likely pitch in any of the games if he stays on his current schedule ... The Orioles drew 11,937 fans on Tuesday, a rainy night in which it was announced Wieters was being called up. Baltimore drew nearly four times that many for Friday's game, which was delayed by rain for 26 minutes ... Luke Scott hit two homers for the Orioles on Friday to steal the show from Wieters ... Former Mariner Adam Jones, the Orioles center fielder, had two hits and is hitting .360.

He appears on his way to becoming a star after he was traded to Baltimore before the 2008 season.

David Driver is a free-lance writer in Maryland and can be reached through his Web site,

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