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GUTHRIE'S WOES MOUNT AS BISONS ARE ROUTED

More than two hours after his short day was over, pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was alone in thought peering into his locker in the Buffalo Bisons clubhouse. Still wearing most of his uniform, Guthrie was struggling to find any answers.

Staked to a 4-0 lead after one inning Saturday, the enigmatic Cleveland Indians prospect was unable to stand the prosperity. He gave up eight runs in the second -- including a pair of home runs to Pawtucket catcher Kelly Shoppach -- and never got out of the inning as the Red Sox thrashed the Bisons, 14-5, before about 200 rain-soaked die-hards in Dunn Tire Park.

Heavy rain and a drenched field forced the scheduled nightcap of the doubleheader to be postponed. The teams will try to play two again at 1:05 today (Radio 1230, 1330 AM).

Shoppach led off the Pawtucket second with a home run to right off a Guthrie fastball, and Guthrie then lost the strike zone. He gave up two walks, Tim Hummel's RBI single and then endured full counts before rebounding to fan the next two hitters.

Dave Berg's two-run double that eluded Ernie Young in right tied the game at 4-4, and things got worse. Guthrie hit Kevin Youkilis with a pitch, allowed Shawn Wooten's RBI single and was roughed up by Shoppach's three-run homer to right-center that put the PawSox up, 8-4, and knocked Guthrie from the game.

The blast made Shoppach the first player in the ballpark's 18-season history to go deep twice in the same inning.

"You throw strikes and you'll get guys out," Guthrie said solemnly with his eyes still trained on the locker. "And I threw strikes in the first inning but not in the second."

"It was weird because the first inning he had some really good stuff," Shoppach said. "He set us down relatively easy. And then in the second, he just started missing the strike zone."

Guthrie's struggles have been equally baffling to the Indians since they drafted the 26-year-old No. 1 out of Stanford in 2002 and gave him a $4 million major-league contract.

He went 6-2 with a 1.44 ERA in 2003 at Double-A Akron before going just 4-9, 6.52 in Buffalo. Last year was a struggle at both Buffalo and Akron (a combined 9-10, 4.69) before six decent relief outings in Cleveland (0-0, 4.63).

Things haven't improved in 2005 as Guthrie is 1-2, 10.66 with 10 walks in 12 2/3 innings. Indians officials worry Guthrie is almost too cerebral on the mound rather than pitching instinctually and frets about flaws in his stride to the plate.

"He loses command of his fastball and doesn't get the feel back to find it," said Herd manager Marty Brown. "Some games, he can find it. The last time (five innings in a 10-3 win April 16 at Pawtucket), he felt uncomfortable with his fastball and went to a lot of secondary stuff in order to throw strikes. That's just not going to cut it. . . . At this level, you make adjustments and get it done."

Guthrie allowed just two runs over the first six innings of his initial start April 11 against Syracuse before giving up three runs in the seventh and has struggled since.

"My first game, I thought I threw the ball excellent," Guthrie said. "The second game, other than a struggle with walks one inning, same thing. Do I think today is a bad game? Yes. Do I think it could have been avoided had I made a couple better pitches? Yes.

"I consider this game a bad outcome and a very negative outing, but I would not classify it as a step back. I just have to get ready for my next time."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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