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Guthrie finds home with Royals in Kansas City

Guthrie finds home with Royals in Kansas City

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Turning things around is old stuff for pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.

Take his college time, for example, when after his freshman year he left Brigham Young University to be a missionary in Spain for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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"I was a missionary for my church so I spent two years away from school, away from baseball, dedicated to that," Guthrie said. "I didn't even take a glove, so from 19 to 21, I didn't throw a baseball, didn't do a push-up, or a shoulder exercise, or even a sprint for that matter."

Even so, he returned to the United States and enrolled at Stanford University to study sociology and still had the ability to play baseball at an All-America level.

"I came back and slowly got back into it. Got in the weight room first," Guthrie said. "Then I picked up a baseball two or three weeks after I returned in the summer of 2000 and just slowly worked back into it. It came back quicker than I would have ever anticipated."

Much like Guthrie got back to winning games last year quicker than anyone might have anticipated after a poor half-season with Colorado. Traded there by Baltimore, Guthrie was the Rockies' Opening Day starter but proceeded to go 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA.

"I guarantee you that people were screaming and yelling in Colorado: 'Get rid of this guy, this guy is horrible,'" Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But what fans don't understand is that something clicks and they turn the corner. It could be as simple as just getting a change of scenery, going to a new place, the enviroment's right and -- boom! -- there he goes. It's a weird thing."

That's what happened with Guthrie after the Royals got him last July 20 in a trade for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who had fans screaming in Kansas City. Guthrie eased his way through 14 games with a 5-3 record and a 3.16 ERA; the Royals won 10 of his last 11 starts.

"For me it was a great opportunity to get to KC and get a fresh start," Guthrie said. "I wasn't pitching well [in Colorado] and it was a tough situation going back and forth between the bullpen and starting. It wasn't something I was very comfortable with, so it was a real blessing for me to get traded."

Guthrie and the Royals formed a mutual admiration society and, after he became a free agent, they re-signed him for three years and $25 million. The signing came between the trade with the Los Angeles Angels for Ervin Santana and the deal with the Tampa Bay Rays that brought James Shields and Wade Davis to the rotation.

"We've added two guys that are All-Stars and have a lot of playoff experience as well and have just accomplished a lot. So I'm real excited about adding Ervin and James and Wade Davis -- good arms with great track records," Guthrie said.

Guthrie had other offers but he felt Kansas City was the best fit for him.

"The great defense helped me out tremendously and [Salvador Perez] behind the plate is a great field general, so those two things helped me out a lot," Guthrie said. "And knowing I had Greg Holland to close, if I could just keep our team in it. That's pretty much a guarantee for him."

At 33, Guthrie seems to have found a baseball home for the next three years. But he lists his place of residence as Pleasant Grove, Utah, and really he's a citizen of the world. His wife, Jenny, and his three children keep their bags packed.

"I love to travel so that's pretty much every offseason for my family -- we travel a lot and this year was no different," Guthrie said. "We had some great trips to Spain, Holland, England, Costa Rica and the Bahamas. That's pretty much our only opportunity as baseball players to travel, those first couple of months in the offseason when we don't have to do much on the baseball side of things. We can relax and I take advantage of that every time. Rick Steves has my dream job -- a travel guru that goes around and writes books. So I need to latch on to Rick Steves in the offseason and see if I can be his apprentice."

And, yes, the world traveler has favorites.

Place?

"My favorite country is Spain, for sure by far -- the people, the culture, the lifestyle there. My favorite individual city is Paris," he said.

Language?

"French is my favorite that I've listened to. Italian, I think if I put some work into it, I'd have an opportunity to learn a decent portion of that language as well."

Of course, Guthrie already speaks fluent Spanish in addition to English -- he was born in Roseburg, Ore., and was the class valedictorian at Ashland (Ore.) High School.

Eventually, he'd like to move his family overseas for that experience.

"I have a number of friends that have done that and it really builds a nice foundation for young kids to see other parts of the world and realize that it's not just the United States and it's not just people speaking English," Guthrie said. "There's diversity all over this Earth and there's a lot to be learned and a lot to be gained by doing that. So I take advantage of it. I'm blessed to have time off and blessed to have the financial security to be able to travel at my will."

He's even got a couple of countries in mind.

"I think Japan and Italy are places I'm targeting and could become realistic destinations for our family," he said.

For the moment, though, he's feeling very much at home in Kansas City.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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