02/21/12 9:00 PM EST
Guthrie begins adjustment to National League
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
But the most pressing question at the beginning of Spring Training is not whether Guthrie can glad-hand with teammates, but whether the right-hander can emerge as Colorado's front man in a rotation full of uncertainty. The 32-year-old has twice lost 17 games in a season but also has the experience and know-how that young starter Jhoulys Chacin lacks. Guthrie is also an innings-eater, logging at least 200 in each of his past three seasons."That stabilizing factor. When you're talking about that, you have a guy that obviously understands how to keep himself in a game," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. Dependable starting pitching was something Colorado lacked last season, as it sputtered to a disappointing fourth-place finish in the NL West, which it was favored to win. Tracy saw the starting pitching affect the bullpen, as he was forced to tax relievers more than he would like. "If your starting pitching is not performing the way you want it to perform, you use your bullpen because you have to," Tracy said. "At some point in time, that will become very, very damaging." Enter Guthrie, who is also looking forward to a bounce-back 2012. He says he has no reason to dwell on the 17 losses, because he can pinpoint his errors and correct them. He said he's focusing during the early part of Spring Training on the command of his fastball, and has keyed in on throwing it low and away in his first few sessions. "The most difficult thing for a pitcher is when he feels out of whack and doesn't feel like himself," Guthrie said. "I never had that stretch last year. I struggled because I made poor pitches and didn't execute. 2009 was a tougher year because I lost the feel for myself as a pitcher. I felt out of whack the majority of the year." Guthrie also lost 17 games in 2009, when he lost more games than he won in all but one month. But he excelled at times in 2011, posting a 2.53 ERA in April and March, and going 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA through September and October. In 2012, his goal is to put together a complete year. That way, he can show the Rockies exactly what they thought they'd be getting when they acquired him during the offseason. "They said, 'Come in, make everybody around you better and we have confidence in your work ethic and what you do to make yourself better,'" Guthrie said. "'Prepare well and teach and work hard and be yourself. The wins and losses will take care of themselves.'"