Increased velocity gives Arroyo satisfaction
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — For all of last year, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo felt like singer Bob Seger: He was pitching Against the Wind. Or underwater. Or uphill.
The velocity on his fastball hovered near 83 to 84 miles an hour, an unsafe speed when trying to retire major-league hitters.
So Arroyo's first spring exhibition start Wednesday against the San Diego Padres was a significant examination.
Would the missing velocity show up?
Arroyo, scheduled for two innings, pitched three because the Padres were swinging away and Arroyo's pitch count was low.
He gave up a first-inning home run to former Reds outfielder Jeremy Hermida in the first inning, but retired seven in a row after that. Then he gave up a single and a walk, but Hermida ended Arroyo's outing by hitting into a double play as the Reds dropped a 5-0 decision.
AFTER HIS OUTING, Arroyo said, "I'm just interested to see what my velocity was. I don't know what it was, but my eyes were telling me it is definitely better than the last couple of seasons."
His eyes were telling the truth. Speed guns held by scouts in the stands clicked off 88 and 89 miles an hour, five miles additional speed from last season.
"There you go," he said. "I feel like if I can throw the ball 90 miles an hour I feel good about what I can do out there. Last year I was humping up for 86, and that was everything I had."
Arroyo says the extra miles per hour on his fastball are extremely important to his health and well-being on the mound.
"I've always been a guy to rely on a lot of breaking pitches and off-speed stuff," he said. "Because of that, if they don't have to respect my fastball, they can just sit on it and go after my other stuff. There is a lot more room for error with me when you can get it by guys a little bit."
Now that his fastball's velocity is operational, Arroyo can focus on what it will take for him to bounce back after his 9-12 record last year with a 5.07 ERA. And he led the majors by giving up 46 homers.
His season, he believes, was ruined by a spring training battle with Valley Fever that lingered all season long.
"This season is significant for me," he said. "I'm 35 now and if I duplicate what I did last year, then I'm definitely coming down the other side of the mountain.
"I feel too young and vibrant, especially in the weight room with the young guys," he added. "So, I don't think that's the case, but the next eight months will tell."
Arroyo is on the next-to-last year of his contract, $12 million this year and $11.5 million next year, but Arroyo is focusing hard on this year when he hopes to pitch with a healthy body.
"I prepared my own food, kept it a little more clean, even though I always eat pretty healthy," said Arroyo of his off-season regimen. "I mixed in a little more protein."
At 6-4, 193 pounds, Arroyo stands about as thin as the left field foul pole, but the facet worth noting is that his body fat at the end of last season was 12 percent and he came to camp this year at 8 percent.
"That will give my back a little bit of a break and I tried to harden up my body to have a nice base to work from," he said. "Now I need to add a few pounds. I'm a thin guy, but small things can add up to a lot for a long period of time, especially given my age."
Arroyo smiled and said, "My body parts aren't going to be as springy as they were when I was 25, so I'm trying to make ‘em last as long as I can."
But it is the velocity that put the largest smile on his face.
"When you stand on the hill and you feel like you have a little zip and you feel you can get guys, even if it is only a mile an hour or two different, sometimes just that can get you over the hump. You don't feel like you are throwing into the wind or throwing under water," he said. "That makes it difficult to feel sharp and that kind of bleeds the effectiveness of your other pitches and your mentality."
Arroyo doesn't want that feeling he had last year each and every time he took the mound.
"Man, I was laboring," he said. "If the body is not healthy, it leads toward a mentality like when you were a rookie — ‘Man, my pants are too tight, my belt's crooked, I'm throwing uphill, I'm throwing downhill.' All that stuff can play tricks on your mind."
For now, after the arrival of that extra fives miles an hour, Arroyo's mind is at ease.