Will this year turn into a do-over for Guthrie?

Jeremy Guthrie's mulligan for the 2009 season starts today in the Orioles' exhibition opener.

When Guthrie takes the mound in Sarasota, all O's fans hope it's the start of a season for him much like the years he had in 2007 and 2008.

Based on his first two seasons in the Orange and Black, Guthrie's performance was way off in 2009.

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Guthrie by year:
2007: 7-5, 3.70 in 175 1/3 innings
2008: 10-12, 3.63 in 190 2/3 innings
2009: 10-17, 5.04 in 200 innings

Guthrie's starts allowing two earned runs or less:
2007: 17 of 26 starts
2008: 17 of 30 starts
2009: 8 of 33 starts

By the math, Guthrie allowed 2 ER or fewer in 61 percent of his starts in 2007 and 2008 but did that just 24 percent of the time last season.

While he was 13th in the American League in ERA in 2007 and 14th in 2008, last season he led the AL in losses and homers allowed.

Did the league figure something out about Guthrie? Did the league just catch up to him? Did he just pitch over his head for two years?

I don't think you can pitch over your head for 56 starts over two seasons, especially not in this division.

This year, Guthrie will need to start games better. He allowed 60 of his 120 runs last year and 20 of his 35 homers in the first three innings of his outings.

Of course he pitched in two games in the WBC last March and there was a theory that it interrupted his normal routine in spring and he never recovered.

Which is the real Guthrie? The hurler who allowed a batting average against of just .249 in 2007 and .242 a year later or the one who allowed hitters to bat .281 versus him last summer?

Save for a four-start stretch beginning in late August, Guthrie struggled throughout the 2009 season and did not have even one month with an ERA under 4.50.

In a FanFest interview in January, Guthrie summed up his 2009 struggles in a few sentences.

"I need to locate better in the zone, I need to make better pitches with two strikes. Breaking balls need to be down in the zone as they do for any pitcher. Those are things you can work on and gain confidence in being able to do so that execution becomes more consistent."

What do you expect from Guthrie this year? Can he return to his previous form and what will it take? Will he have another season like last year?

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