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Guthrie begins adjustment to National League

Guthrie begins adjustment to National League

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jeremy Guthrie stood at his locker in the Rockies clubhouse at Salt River Fields, surrounded by new faces. To his right was Tyler Chatwood, acquired from the Angels by trade this offseason, and in front of the next cubby was veteran Jamie Moyer.

There were niceties, but Guthrie's largest concern centered upon what he figured to be the most difficult thing about his transition to the new club: how to bunt.

"It was a good first lesson," Guthrie said after the 49-year-old Moyer taught him a thing or two. "I have to eliminate the fear. That'll be my first step. Everything else is fine. The bunting should be more difficult than the new players and the new club."

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Everything from this point forward is sure to be an adjustment for Guthrie, who leaves the powerful American League East -- where he suffered an AL-worst 17 losses last season -- for the pitching-dominated National League West. He's shifted time zones, team colors and jersey numbers. He's one of a slew of new faces in the Colorado clubhouse.

"In baseball, you play on a number of different teams and meet so many guys, it's a pretty easy transition," Guthrie said. "Baseball is so unique, it's kind of like a fraternity, so it only takes a couple days before you make friends and can be teammates for years."

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.'"

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.‬ This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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