SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t quite the throng Masahiro Tanaka might have drawn. But the crowd on hand for new Diamondbacks pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s first bullpen session on Wednesday did just fine to illustrate the anticipation of his arrival, which had loomed for about a week.
"I guess you had to make sure I could throw a decent bullpen before you gave me this, right?" Arroyo joked as D-backs general manager Kevin Towers handed over a D-backs jersey at an introductory press conference.
The D-backs needed far less to determine Arroyo is the answer after Tanaka picked the Yankees, and it’s becoming more and more evident he’ll be good a fit in Arizona.
"I think his personality is going to be awesome for our staff and for our team," manager Kirk Gibson said. "He’s going to lead by example, and he knows quite a bit about pitching."
Towers on Wednesday described the process of bringing Arroyo to the D-backs in the days following Tanaka’s decision. About 48 hours after Tanaka’s announcement, Towers met with team president Derrick Hall and managing general partner Ken Kendrick.
The group tackled a question that was answered quickly.
"Is there a pitcher out there right now that makes sense for our organization and our needs?" Towers recalled. "It was Bronson."
Towers placed a call to Arroyo’s agent, Terry Bross, and spoke with Arroyo soon after. Gibson spoke with Arroyo the next day, and within four or five days the two sides had come to an agreement.
Arroyo, who’s played in parts of 14 major league seasons, gives the D-backs a durable starter with the veteran experience they sought over the offseason. Since throwing 205 innings in 2005, Arroyo has pitched less than 200 innings just once — 199 in 2011. Since his debut in 2000, Arroyo has never gone on the major league disabled list.
Arroyo also displayed a winning pedigree, averaging nearly 14 victories per year the past six seasons. That is before mentioning his key role in the Red Sox’s 2004 World Series title.
"We felt he was the right guy to kind of give us some leadership on what we think is a very young pitching staff that has a lot of upside and somebody that (Gibson) and (pitching coach) Mike Harkey know that every fifth day this guy is going to toe the rubber, keep you in a ball game and give you a chance to win," Towers said.
That was only half the equation. The D-backs saw Arroyo as a fit, but the feeling had to be mutual. Arroyo was eager to find a new home quickly, having played the waiting game after seeing the Reds would not be bringing him back on agreeable terms.
Once the Tanaka domino fell, things picked up and it was the D-backs that made the right impression.
"They extended their hand out to me in a different way than anybody else had in the game," Arroyo said. "It was the first time I was a free agent, I talked to half the teams in the league and most of them just weren’t as direct as these guys.
"I played in Pittsburgh, I played in Boston, I played in Cincinnati the last eight years, and they have all had great qualities about them but I love the attention to detail these guys have."
Arroyo particularly appreciated the D-backs honesty about their budget and how quickly they wanted to move.
Joining the D-backs, though, meant a big change. Arroyo said he likes getting to know organizations and cities from the owner to the beat writers to the janitors. After so many years in Cincinnati, the thought of starting the process over was a bit daunting.
It makes sense then that Arroyo seemed a little out of place, perhaps lost even, when he stepped to the podium Wednesday wearing D-backs red.
"It’s definitely weird for me," Arroyo said. "I’m a routine freak. I’m wearing 1999 Kenny Lofton shoes in games still."
Arroyo divulged further he still pitches with the same glove he used in the 2004 World Series. And he still uses a flip phone.
"I don’t do well with change," Arroyo said. "I love something and I tend to stick with it for a long time."
Perhaps the only consistency the D-backs could offer was remaining in Arizona for spring training — the Red train in Goodyear. Still, Arroyo embraced the move and is eager to settle in.
True to his consistent personality, the right-hander has been one of baseball’s most durable pitchers over the last decade. Since three disabled-lists stints in the minors, Arroyo has missed just a handful of games due to injury throughout his career. He made at least 32 starts every season since 2005.
In trying to explain his staying power, Arroyo credited the spacious shoulder he as born with — "things aren’t grinding against each other," he said — and his relatively soft delivery.
"Not having to pitch at max effort helps a lot, not having to go out there and feel like I’ve got to empty the tank every night, every pitch to get people out," Arroyo said. "I’m probably one of the slowest guys in Major League Baseball."
Arroyo also suggested he benefited from a "weird" upbringing in which his father had him in the weight room and taking supplements at 5 or 6 years old.
Gibson simply called Arroyo’s durability "a gift."
"Some guys are fast, some guys have got power," Gibson said. "He’s just got a gift the way his body is."
As Arroyo answered questions with local and national media, Kendrick, Towers and Hall looked on, smiling. The trio appeared very pleased with the investment they’d made — a reported $19 million for two years with a third-year option for $11 million or a $4.5 million buyout — and later sounded optimistic they’d made an addition that pushes the team one step closer to the postseason.
As pleased as the leadership team appeared, Arroyo seemed just as happy to have a new home where he can begin to write the next chapter of his career.
"If I had my perfect world, I probably would have retired in a Reds uniform, but that’s not the way the game is," Arroyo said. "I’m happy to be in a place that seems like they’re opening their arms to me. … I just want to get here and learn everybody and their personality and figure out how we can win ball games."