For Pete's Sake

Jeremy Guthrie on awful start to end his career: ‘I’ll regret the outcome as long as I watch baseball’

Jeremy Guthrie during that dreadful outing against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 8.
Jeremy Guthrie during that dreadful outing against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 8. The Associated Press

It seems the number will always be there: 135.00.

That is former Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie’s ERA for 2017, the result of a disastrous start with the Washington Nationals in April. In that game, Guthrie allowed 10 runs (all earned) on six hits and four walks, while recording just two outs.

It ruined what had been a nice story for Guthrie, who remains well-liked among most fans in Kansas City.

Guthrie was part of the baseball revival here that led to consecutive American League pennants and a World Series championship in 2015. Although Guthrie didn’t pitch in the 2015 postseason, he happily accepted a supporting role as his teammates made a run to postseason glory.

After the 2015 season, Guthrie tried to land a job with the Rangers, but ended up pitching in the minor leagues with the Padres and Marlins (as well as getting his college degree). Guthrie struggled and had a 7.17 ERA in 17 starts last summer. His career seemed over. But there was glimmer of hope in the winter: Guthrie pitched well in the Australian Baseball League.

In a conversation with Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com, Guthrie said he ran into former Royals scouting director Terry Wetzel at Yordano Ventura’s memorial in Kansas City in January. Wetzel is the Nationals’ special assistant to the general manager, and that led to an invite to spring training.

At spring training, Guthrie was outstanding. “I felt unhittable,” he told Zuckerman after he compiled a 2.41 ERA in nine games, including two starts. Guthrie struck out 15 in 18 2/3 innings, and earned a chance to start the Nationals’ game on April 8 against the Phillies.

But all the good feelings in the spring vanished in the span of 47 pitches.

“I’ll regret the outcome. I won’t regret the process,” Guthrie told Zuckerman. “There was nothing more that I could’ve done to prepare. But I’ll regret the outcome as long as I watch baseball. I’ll always think to myself: ‘Geez, if I just could’ve pitched better, who knows what could’ve happened?’ I don’t think I’ll ever get past it, but I think I will accept it for what it is and be grateful for the opportunity I was afforded.

Jeremy Guthrie reflects on his time with the Kansas City Royals, and his love for the city and fans. Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star

“I spent a whole year not pitching in the major leagues. So to have an organization view me as major league-caliber pitcher again, it was very gratifying.”

Guthrie said in that MASN story that he was told he’d be going to Class AAA regardless of the outcome of the start, but that he’d have a chance to be called upon for a spot start as needed. That changed after his dreadful outing. Guthrie decided to ask for his release rather than go to the minor leagues. That essentially signaled the end of his career.

Looking back on it, Guthrie say that maybe the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day was a blessing. He’s able to be with his family rather than toiling at Class AAA.

“My wife leans on this, and I think I’ve learned to lean on it as well: Maybe the only way I could end up at home anytime soon with my family, where they need me, was for something like this to happen,” Guthrie told Zuckerman. “That was maybe the hardest question I had to ask myself: ‘Why would I pitch well enough to make the team, just to have this happen?’

“In my mind, I felt like there was a greater plan, pushing me and providing the opportunities that came to me. And then to have it suddenly go away and be taken away in that fashion, my wife said: ‘You know what, maybe if you just did OK in spring training and didn’t make the team, you would’ve wanted to keep pitching. Maybe if you pitched well in that game, you certainly would’ve kept pitching. But maybe you’re supposed to be home, and that’s probably what’s happening.’ 

You can read more of what Guthrie had to say here.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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