SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies kept right-handed pitcher Jeremy Guthrie away from the main stage Thursday night by using him in a Minor League game instead. But he won't be backstage for long.Rockies manager Jim Tracy announced that Guthrie will start on Opening Day, April 6, at Houston. It'll be the fourth Opening Day start in five years for Guthrie, who turns 33 on April 8. The Rockies acquired Guthrie from the Orioles on Feb. 6 for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom with hopes that he will lead a young staff. Bringing in such a pitcher was necessary because Jorge De La Rosa won't be available until late May or June as he recovers from left elbow surgery. Tracy said the Rockies haven't set their rotation beyond Guthrie. Much of this spring, Guthrie has been gathering information on hitters in the National League West, but he took a break from that Thursday and threw six solid innings against D-backs farmhands. Guthrie struck out six, gave up one run on four hits and a walk, and threw strikes on 57 of his 87 pitches. Part of the reason Guthrie didn't pitch against the Giants was his second start of the season will come against them. Also, throwing to Minor Leaguers allowed Guthrie to pitch with a clear mind. "When you don't have any information, you can just throw the pitches that you want to throw," Guthrie said. "That allowed Wil [Nieves, his catcher] and I to throw quite an array of pitches in a couple of different sequences that sometimes maybe I don't quite get to. "It's nice to be able to have those innings. You throw what you want to throw and see what happens." A lot of good happened for Guthrie on Thursday. "At the start, we were working on trying to get some of the offspeed pitches over," he said. "The curveball we kept throwing wasn't there in the strike zone, but the last three innings we got quite a few strikes with it. Fastball was down in the zone more consistently. Overall, it was a good outing." Guthrie hopes to climb to 100-105 pitches in his next start, then back off a bit to prepare to open the season. With the Orioles, Guthrie was the Opening Day starter in 2008, '09 and '11. In 2010, he was the No. 2 starter behind Kevin Millwood.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.