DENVER -- The Rockies have turned to veteran backup catcher Wil Nieves to help right-handed pitcher Jeremy Guthrie find his groove.
A solid pitcher with the Orioles the last five season, Guthrie, 33, has struggled this season with the Rockies. Guthrie entered Tuesday night's start at home against the Athletics at 3-4 with a 6.35 ERA, and at Coors Field he was 1-2 with an 8.87 ERA. He has given up 11 homers in 51 innings.
After Guthrie gave up 11 hits, including two homers, and seven runs in just 3 1/3 innings in a 10-0 loss at Arizona, he needed work, and Nieves -- who has caught for the Padres, Yankees, Nationals and Brewers -- was available to help.
Nieves caught a bullpen session for Guthrie in which infielders Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr. stood in as hitters, and caught another throwing session. So manager Jim Tracy started Nieves on Tuesday.
"[Rookie Wilin] Rosario has done the bulk of the catching during the games, so Nieves has been with him through all of that [practice]," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "We just want to match him up with Guth and see where it goes."
Nieves, 34, said it's just a matter of keeping everything simple.
"We've been worrying about hitting our spots," Nieves said. "Ninety percent of the time, it's not the pitch you call -- it's the location. Every time we watch film, we see we're giving them one target and then all of the sudden we're moving our target back to the middle and they're hitting it. We've got a plan, and if we accomplish that plan and hit our spots, we're going to get people out.
"When I was with Washington, every time we played Philadelphia we tried to look at the big picture. They had Ryan Howard, Chase Utley. I told the guys, 'I don't care who's hitting up there. Hit the target, and if they get a hit then just tip your cap to them.'"
The key could be as simple as getting ahead in the count. In the 97 plate appearances when the decision pitch came with the batter ahead, opponents are hitting .347 with seven home runs and a .733 slugging percentage. Guthrie has been ahead just 58 times. He has made some mistakes, to the tune of .304 with three homers and a .536 slugging percentage, but he has a fighting chance if his delivery and location are right.