Arroyo brings toughness, durability to Reds
MAY 28, 2013 6:45p ET
CINCINNATI — With his boyish face, his long flowing hair and his Q-tip body, one of the last guys in baseball one might slap the tough-guy image on is Bronson Arroyo.
What was his mother thinking? She named him Bronson, “Because she liked tough-guy actor Charles Bronson,” said the Cincinnati Reds pitcher, the guy every pitcher in the clubhouse respects and probes for insights.
But tough is as tough does and Arroyo displays baseball toughness almost beyond comprehension. Not only has he never missed a scheduled start on the mound during his 11-year major-league career, he never missed a start in six minor-league seasons and, in fact, never missed a start in high school or on the sandlots as a kid.
Clearly, his arm is made of synthetic rubber, Body by Goodyear.
Arroyo takes the mound Wednesday night in Cleveland against the Indians, a team against which he has had limited success — 5-5, 5.14 ERA. One thing should make it easier. He won’t face Shin-Soo Choo. In fact, Choo is now helping guard Arroyo’s back as the Reds’ center fielder and leadoff hitter.
“Yeah, it will be nice not facing him,” said Arroyo.
When it was mentioned that Choo has four home runs off him, Arroyo smiled and said, “He told me, counting spring training, he has six homers off me in 20 at-bats. That’s a joke, right?”
At 6-3, 197 pounds, some manager might be reluctant to start Arroyo on a windy day for fear of him blowing away, but any manager who knows him knows he has pitched 200 or more innings in seven of his last eight seasons, and he missed eight straight by one inning in 2011. And never once has a breeze knocked him over.
“He may look like a fun-loving, guitar-playing (he does play guitar) surfer boy, but he is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker. “During the All-Star break, when everybody else goes home to play golf or fish, Arroyo stays in Cincinnati and works out every day, works hard.”
Arroyo, 36, comes out of the same mold that formed soft-tossing Jamie Moyer, who was still starting games last year for the Colorado Rockies at age 49.
Does that give Arroyo 13 more years? Possibly. He’d like to try, but first he’d like to sign a new contract with the Reds when his current one expires after this season.
But he sees it as a tough choice for the Reds.
“I’ll pitch for a few more years,” he said. “I’d love to play here. No conversations yet. But it will come down to payroll, which is pretty heavy here ($109.5 million). Choo is a question mark to get big money as much as he is helping this ballclub. There is not a whole lot of wiggle room because of the deals that Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips received. That probably pretty much iced all the money they expect to have coming in for the future.
“Even though we have a really good ballclub and I have been a large part of the glue that has kept this rotation together, it will be tough,” Arroyo added.
Arroyo paused for effect and said, “I’m a weird guy. I’ve flown under the radar for 7 1/2 years. Since I’ve been in this uniform I’ve led the National League in starts and wins. There isn’t much else you can ask of me, especially being a non-power guy. All that being said, I’m not as glamorous as some of the guys out there, the power guys, but there is some value here in the work I do, the things I do towards the other guys — setting a regimen that helps the younger guys.”
Arroyo knows, though, that money makes the world go round, that it talks louder than anything else.
“Does all that mean they want to pony up $40 million for three years for me?” he said. “I’m looking for the free agency finish line. I’m at the age that even though I look and feel much younger than my age, it’s still a stigma for some of the teams — no five-year deals because of my age. Dollars and cents always play the largest role of anything on this planet.”
While his mother slapped his name on him, his father, Gus, made him what he is today, and Gus never played a game of baseball in his life. He was a weightlifter.
“I’ve been in the weight room doing what I do now since I was five — and how crazy is that?” said Arroyo. “I have DVDs of me when I was 8 years old squatting 250 pounds when I weighed under 60 pounds. What a joke. I watch it now and it’s a joke.
“My dad competed in bench-lifting and squatting at the state level (in Florida), so we always had a gym in the house and a lot of his friends there lifting,” Arroyo added. “I’d sit around and watch. By the time I wanted to play tee ball (at 5) he saw how easily the game came to me in comparison to other kids. He never showed me anything about baseball because he never played. But once he saw me backhand a ball and throw it across the infield like nothing, when other kids could barely pick the ball up, he figured, ‘I’ll put him in the weight room because he seems interested anyway.’”
And with the weight room came dietary supplements — at age five.
“Dad was a vegetarian and into supplements and taking protein,” said Arroyo. “This was at a time when there was nothing on the market but Joe Weider’s milk and egg protein that tasted disgusting. But I’ve taken that stuff all my life. I was carbo-loading two days before I pitched at age seven and eight. I’ve lived this life, my whole life.”
And that life has carried him so well he barely knows what the inside of the trainer’s room looks like and the Reds can be assured, every fifth day, that will be another tough guy named Bronson standing on the mound.