A recent diary from drj sparked a good bit of conversation about the race -- or non-race -- for the fifth spot in the O's rotation. Veteran Steve Trachsel, signed to replace the injured Kris Benson, has, frankly, been for shit this spring. Trachsel has said that it means nothing and that he's simply trying to get his arm strength up to 100% by Opening Day, but Trachsel was hurt all of 2005 and wasn't much in the way of not bad in 2006 for the Mets.
Then there's Jeremy Guthrie, who probably hasn't even really been in management's thoughts so much as being a fifth starter. He has pitched pretty well this spring, picked up from the Indians on waivers because Mazzone or someone likes his arm.
I want to go a little further into this. I support Steve Trachsel for the time being. This is because Jeremy Guthrie has long been a disappointment. He was given a $3 million signing bonus by Cleveland after he graduated from Stanford, but he was 23 by then, having done a Mormon mission. His time with Buffalo in 2006 -- 3.15 ERA over 123 innings -- was the first time in years that he had pitched well. He's 28 years old -- not a prospect, and not even quite a flameout since he never had any flame.
I don't want to root against the dude, but Guthrie stinks. We got him on waivers for a reason.
Trachsel is no prize, either. He's old, his arm isn't what it used to be (and it was never anything special), and he hasn't pitched well in a while himself. And yes, he looks awful this spring, while Guthrie doesn't. But if spring training starts meaning more to veteran ballplayers than getting in shape and not hurting yourself, then this won't be America anymore. Guthrie has almost assuredly "worked harder" than Trachsel this spring, because Guthrie needed to go all-out just to make the team, or even just to have a job in baseball, period. Trachsel got a late jump on everything this year, and was almost certainly going to get a rotation spot the moment he was signed.
I'm also not saying that Trachsel is half-assing his spring or anything, but Guthrie has probably had to push himself to perform like this is August and it's a pennant race, whereas Trachsel was probably told to get comfortable, get to know his teammates, and get his arm in shape as quickly as he could. I really doubt Trachsel and Guthrie have had the same mindframes this spring.
I don't think Trachsel will be very good, but for the time being, my gut says to at least give him his shot, or else there was no point to bringing him to Fort Lauderdale to begin with. If the regular season starts and he sucks for a few turns in the rotation, then get rid of him and try Guthrie or Hayden Penn or someone else. No one wants Russ Ortiz again, obviously. But let's not panic about Trachsel right now, or get all gushy for Guthrie. It's the middle of March.
(Kinda makes a guy or gal miss Kris Benson, though, doesn't it?)