Homeward Bound

BALTIMORE — Jeremy Guthrie walked into the Orioles' clubhouse here about two hours before he was slated to take the mound against the Kansas City Royals last Thursday.

But the Ashland High graduate had to worry about more than just opposing hitters prior to his start on a hot, sticky afternoon in the Inner Harbor.

Guthrie, 32, a Roseburg native, and his teammates had to pack for a West Coast trip that began after the homestand against the Royals. A right-hander, Guthrie arrived in the clubhouse with a suitcase in preparation for a homecoming trip of sorts for the former college standout at BYU and Stanford.

The elder statesman of the Orioles' rotation, Guthrie is slated to start tonight in Seattle as he makes a return visit to the Pacific Northwest.

He started Thursday but did not get a decision as the Orioles won their fifth game in a row, 6-5 in 12 innings, against Kansas City.

Tonight, Guthrie is slated to oppose Erik Bedard, the former Orioles who is now with Seattle.

"We would love to be a team that plays above .500 ball and play meaningful games at the end of the season," Guthrie told reporters after Thursday's game.

Guthrie, who is 2-6 with an ERA of 3.63 in 11 games — 10 of them starts — is not the only member of the Orioles with ties to the region. Kevin Gregg, a reliever for Baltimore, is a product of Corvallis High.

Adam Jones, the center fielder for the Birds, and starting pitcher Chris Tillman were former members of the Seattle organization and were part of the trade to Baltimore for Bedard prior to the 2008 season.

Guthrie looked very sharp in his start against the Royals, as he blew a fastball on the outside part of the plate to left-handed hitter Alex Gordon to begin the game with a strikeout. But after retiring all three batters in the first, he ran into trouble in the second when the Royals scored four times.

The irony of the game against Kansas City was that for most of the past two seasons, Guthrie has been the victim of limited run support in many of his starts. But this time the Orioles' offense awoke as outfielder Nolan Reimold, who began the season in the minors, had the first two-homer game of his major league career.

"(Reimold) was huge," Guthrie said. "Obviously the two home runs got us the lead, and then later on he just continued to pound the ball and give us more opportunities to win the game. I think this year we've seen him in a good spot. He's very confident, and he's going to continue to contribute for us. So that's a good thing for the Orioles, having Nolan swinging the bat the way he is and playing great defense, too."

Guthrie lasted seven innings and gave up nine hits, five runs (four earned) and issued no walks while striking out eight. The Orioles improved to .500 with a season-high fifth straight win as Vladimir Guerrero drove in the winning run with a single up the middle in the last of the 12th.

Buck Showalter, the Orioles manager, was asked about the West Coast jaunt and what he did when he was the skipper of the Yankees on those long trips from the East Coast.

"We tried everything from looking into Michael Jackson compression chambers on the plane — which we didn't do — to changing the diet," he said. "All this stuff we used to do, but we just struggled. The time zone, the time change is one thing. You can't let yourself start thinking about what time it is back home. You've go to be disciplined and take care of yourself. Everybody's got a different theory. I haven't heard one that's fool proof."

The Orioles headed to the West Coast with 24 wins but are stuck on that number following their fourth straight loss, 4-3, in the series opener with Seattle Monday.

Baltimore didn't get to 24 wins until late June in 2010.

Guthrie came out of the bullpen in an extra-inning loss to the New York Yankees on May 18. That caused him to miss his start May 19 against the Yankees in Baltimore. He then started on May 21 at home against Washington and made his regular turn on Thursday against Kansas City. He will try to stay on schedule and get back in the win column with tonight's outing.

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