After starting the year on the fast track with the Akron Aeros (Double-A Eastern League), Guthrie posted a 6-2 record with a 1.44 ERA, statistics that were surprisingly dominant for someone just out of college. After a midseason promotion, however, Guthrie has encountered a speed bump at Triple-A, going 3-9 with a 6.48 ERA for the Buffalo Bisons (International League).
Ross Atkins, the Indians' Assistant Director of Player Development, stressed that Guthrie's recent performance has not made the club sour on one of their top prospects. "Jeremy Guthrie will pitch in the major leagues, and he will likely pitch in the majors for a long time," said Atkins in a telephone interview on August 15th. "This is a small hurdle for Jeremy to overcome, and it's something that every athlete faces."
Some analysts, including Baseball America's John Manuel, have suggested that Guthrie's struggles may be a reflection of the increased workload he's experienced as a professional. While Atkins agreed that Guthrie may be fatigued, he said that Guthrie's Triple-A statistics are a part of the process of developing a young pitcher.
"We fully expected that Jeremy would be challenged like this," he explained. "We expected it earlier, actually. We thought he would be challenged by Double-A," he said. "But it's good that he's faced this challenge while he's been in the minors. There's a lot less pressure than if this had happened two weeks or two months after he was promoted to the Majors."
While the Indians' front office would like to see Guthrie's ERA deflate a bit, "that would just be for Jeremy, because he's worked so hard," said Atkins. "The high ERA doesn't change things for us. We still believe in him."
Atkins also commended Guthrie for the way he has dealt with these setbacks. "How you deal with failures and uncontrollables is a big part of success," he said. "And Guthrie hasn't changed his routines, he hasn't changed his attitudes. And that's a good measure of somebody who will be successful."
Guthrie's reputation as a hard worker and a man of strong character are part of what made the former Stanford ace such a coveted prospect.
After signing with the Indians, Guthrie was placed in Double-A, an unusually fast start for a college junior.
The aggressive promotions are not the norm for the Indians franchise, Atkins said, but that Guthrie has dictated his own path through their system. "It's performance, projection, and character that dictates how we promote players. Guthrie has earned it, both personally and professionally," he said.
Sean Bruich is a sophomore at Stanford University. You can hear him on KZSU 90.1 FM during the Tuesday night broadcasts of Cardinal Baseball throughout the 2003-2004 season.
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