Baltimore Oriole Jeremy Guthrie showed up to play Friday night at Tropicana Field and he pitched like the first-round draft pick he is.

Prior to the 2007 season that featured CC Sabathia’s last run at a World Series ring in Cleveland, Guthrie was claimed off waivers from the Indians.

He has spent the better part of his career in relative obscurity on a bad team in a division dominated by powerhouses.

But, the potential has always been there. It was visible last year when he posted a 2.76 ERA after the break and it was certainly on display last night.

His high strikeout rate was solid—six Ks in eight IP—and Guthrie looked like a true ace.

Upon his exit, the fans at the Trop were treated to their Opening Day moment courtesy of Ben Zobrist’s solo shot. The crowd, which had been quiet most of the night, showed what a healthy fan base can sound like in Tampa.

Immediately following Zobrist’s homer, they were reminded how lopsided the night had been, as Johnny Damon, Evan Longoria and Manny Ramirez went down in order.

Certainly, it’s easy to say the offense was terrible. Besides Zobrist, the team went 2-for-26. They had trouble making solid contact with Guthrie’s pitches, producing a meager .142 BABIP despite his 36 percent ground-ball rate.

The story of the Rays offensive performance Friday was that of an unprepared team running into a pitcher in midseason form. It is safe to assume that eventually the hits will come.

Of more concern for Rays fans is the atrocious defense, particularly from Damon. His apparent difficulty getting to fly balls and his Johnny-Being-Johnny warning track flip showed his age.

His youthful speed was imploded within Yankee Stadium, and he would be better suited at first base. There, he represents an offensive upgrade over Dan Johnson and his defensive impact is minimized. 

It is time to let Desmond Jennings’ quick feet get a chance to heal the Carl Crawford-sized wound out by the party deck in left field.

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