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Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin, left, gives instructions while Kevin Guthrie looks on during practice Monday at Shuttleworth Park.

Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks pitchers Zach Breen, left, and Daniel Castro, right, talk during Monday's practice at Shuttleworth Park.

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Mohawks begin practicing, first game comes Thursday

Tuesday, June 03, 2014 - Updated: 10:04 AM

By ADAM SHINDER

adam.shinder@recordernews.com

As a member of the 2013 Amsterdam Mohawks, Kevin Guthrie was used to doing just about whatever was asked of him.

Brought in as a pitcher out of Brown University, Guthrie did see some time out of the bullpen last summer, but when injuries and departures hit, Guthrie's versatility became his most useful trait to head coach Keith Griffin, and by the time the Mohawks wrapped up the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League title, Guthrie was the team's starting catcher.

Back for a second run with the Mohawks in 2014, Guthrie said he expects to see a little more time in his regular role on the mound this season -- but, with the roster short on players as the team opened practice Monday at Shuttleworth Park, Guthrie was chipping in for the team once again, catching bullpen sessions and logging time in the infield.

"You never know what your roles are with (Griffin), but that's the fun of it," Guthrie said. "You learn a new role every day."

Thirteen players were on hand Monday night for the Mohawks' opening practice -- eight pitchers, four position players and the jack-of-all-trades Guthrie -- ahead of the team's Thursday night season opener at home against the Newark Pilots. Griffin, back for a sixth summer in Amsterdam and seeking a fifth championship -- and third in a row -- said players will continue to trickle in over the next several days, with the team likely not fielding its full roster until the Mohawks' contingent of players from the University of Kentucky arrive at the start of next week.

"It is what it is, and you play with the ones you've got and see how it goes," Griffin said.

Three of the 13 who took the field Monday night were members of the Mohawks' 2013 championship team -- Guthrie, infielder Josh Gardiner and pitcher Zach Breen. And while a couple things have changed since Aug. 8, 2013 when they last walked off the field after beating the Elmira Pioneers in Game 3 of the PGCBL Championship Series -- the infield itself, for instance, which is now a brand-new artificial turf surface -- coming back to spend a summer in the Rug City was like slipping back into an old routine.

"It's awesome. I feel right at home," Guthrie said.

Those few returning players make things a bit easier for Griffin as well. With a gaggle of unfamiliar players from across the country coming together, the veteran Mohawks who are accustomed to Griffin's coaching style and preferred way of doing things help bring their new teammates into the fold.

Plus, while his knowledge of most of the 2014 Mohawks comes primarily from following their statistics during the collegiate season, the returning players give him a few known quantities to operate with.

"I know who pitched well, I know who hit well," Griffin said. "But, until you get a chance to coach them, you don't know."

That's the way Griffin operates as the season begins. With the team still coming together and him still getting familiar with his players' skill sets and where they're best utilized, Griffin has typically used the first 10 to 15 games of a summer to tinker with his lineup and pitching staff before getting more settled as June turns into July.

With four championships in five seasons, an unsettled start seems to be a fair exchange.

"Right now, we've got three infielders and two outfielders," Griffin said. "Until you get a full complement of players and everybody learns their role, it's sometimes a rough start. I wish it wasn't, but it typically is that way."

Follow ADAM SHINDER on Twitter at twitter.com/RecorderShinder

     

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