Indians sign Guthrie for $4 million
By John Manuel
Righthander Jeremy Guthrie, the Tribe's first-round pick out of Stanford, agreed to terms with the organization on a major league deal. The contract guarantees Guthrie $4 million, with an up-front signing bonus of $3 million. It's the second-largest contract awarded to a drafted player in 2002, surpassed only by No. 2 overall pick B.J. Upton of the Devil Rays ($4.6 million).
Guthrie, 23, didn't attend the first day of classes at Stanford on Wednesday in anticipation of signing. He will join the Indians' instructional league program soon after the contract becomes official, and if he can get into pitching shape soon, he could join their Arizona Fall League contingent, with the Phoenix Desert Dogs, later in the season.
Guthrie hasn't pitched competitively since getting the loss against Texas in the College World Series on June 19. It was just the second loss of a brilliant junior season, when the first-team All-American went 13-2, 2.51. He logged 157 2/3 innings, striking out 136 while walking just 36. The highlight of his season probably was a 13-inning complete game in a regional victory against Cal State Fullerton, when he out-dueled the Titans' Wes Littleton.
Baseball America ranked Guthrie as the No. 11 prospect heading into the draft; he was selected 22nd overall. Only No. 1 overall pick Bryan Bullington of Ball State, drafted by the Pirates, and Wake Forest closer David Bush, drafted by the Blue Jays, were considered closer to the majors than Guthrie in terms of stuff and polish.
Guthrie works with a 90-93 mph fastball that can touch 95-96 on occasion. He commands the fastball well, as well as three other offerings--slider, changeup and curveball. His slider, which has a late, quick break, is the strongest of his secondary pitches.
Guthrie has been on and off the prospect radar. Originally drafted by the Mets in 1997 out of Ashland (Ore.) High, he chose to attend Brigham Young instead, turning down a bonus approaching $500,000. He spent 1998 with the Cougars, leading the team in innings and strikeouts while going 5-3, 6.10.
A Mormon, Guthrie spent the next two years on a church mission in Spain, and has said he didn't pick up a baseball during his sojourn, not to mention play a game. Upon his return, he transferred to Stanford and emerged in the fall of 2000 as a force on the staff.
He started 2001 in the rotation and soon became its ace, finishing the year 13-4, 2.82. He tired and dropped velocity at the tail end of the season, which helped drop the eligible sophomore to the third round of the draft, where the Pirates selected him. However, he never signed and went on to his big junior season.
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