Left-hander Mark Guthrie was everything the Dodgers hoped for in 1996, and everything the opposition hoped for last season.
The reliever had a bad time, going 1-4 with a 5.32 earned-run average in 62 games. His low point came Sept. 18 at San Francisco when Giant catcher Brian Johnson hit a 12th-inning, leadoff home run against him, giving the Giants a 6-5 victory.
With the victory, the Giants moved into a first-place tie with the Dodgers, then went on to win the National League West title. The previous season, Guthrie was 2-3 with a 2.22 ERA in 66 games.
Now, Guthrie is working in Vero Beach, Fla., with Sandy Koufax, the Hall of Fame Dodger left-hander. So far, the Dodgers say the project is going nicely.
"I feel good about it," Guthrie said. "There was a feeling I was too prone to mistakes in my motion, so we've been working on that."
Pitching coach Glenn Gregson said Guthrie's problems were mechanical, which are correctable.
"He tends to have problems if he doesn't stay on top of the ball, which we noticed he had a tendency to do," Gregson said. "Sandy has also been working with him on a hard breaking ball, which is more like a slider.
"We think that can complement his [split-finger pitch] well, so then he can really work both sides of the plate."
Guthrie's role this season isn't clear. He might be the left-handed setup man, if Scott Radinsky wins the closer job. Or he could be used in middle relief, if right-hander Antonio Osuna is the closer.
And the possibility of being traded always exists. Regardless, Guthrie said 1998 will be better for him.
"I don't think I have to prove myself again," Guthrie said, "but I do want to get back out there."