A year later the trade from baseball-mad Boston to Cincinnati still stings, but at least Bronson Arroyo had a little fun this winter with the man who had dealt him away. Singing with his band at The Roxy in Boston one night, Arroyo invited Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein onstage. But before they could belt out Rockin' in the Free World together, Arroyo and Epstein were serenaded by the sold-out crowd with "Bring back Bronson! Bring back Bronson!"
"I think it'd be easier if you just traded me to Cincinatti," Epstein told the crowd.
He's right. The Reds won't be giving up Arroyo, whom they acquired for outfielder Wily Mo Peña, anytime soon. In February the 30-year-old righthander signed a contract extension that pays him $33 million through 2010; that's the kind of money he never would have earned as a fifth starter with the Red Sox. For better or worse, the free-spirited Arroyo is already a fixture in Cincinnati and perhaps the biggest factor in whether the club even gets out of the bottom half of the division. Arroyo, the major league leader with 2402Ú3 innings pitched last year, and fellow workhorse Aaron Harang (2341Ú3 innings) combined for 70 starts, 400 strikeouts, a 30-22 record and a 3.53 ERA. "Most baseball people agree that Bronson and Aaron make the top of our rotation as strong as any in baseball," Reds CEO Bob Castellini said, after signing both pitchers to deals that should keep them in Cincinnati for the next four years.
That statement might sound a bit over the top, but it's rare for a team to be able to pencil in two pitchers for about 35 starts apiece -- and rarer still for both to exceed 230 innings. The Reds were expecting a strong year from 28-year-old fireballer Harang, but they were somewhat surprised when Arroyo gave them more than a fourth starter's typical output. He went 14-11 with a 3.29 ERA, twice pitching on three days' rest in crucial series down the stretch. "No matter how much I throw, my arm doesn't hurt," he says. "I'd love to be in a four-man rotation. That extra day of rest really doesn't do me any good. I think I could pitch 300 innings a year without hurting myself."
And Cincinnati would love to be able to say it has four good starters, if not five. Righthander Kyle Lohse and lefthander Eric Milton will open the season as the No. 3 and No. 4 men in the rotation, respectively, but with a combined 5.51 ERA last year they're more apt to be keeping the seats warm for a couple of young pitchers, most notably the Reds' top pick from the 2004 draft, 20-year-old Homer Bailey, a 6' 4" string bean who throws 97 mph. Also bidding for a rotation spot is 24-year-old Bobby Livingston, a former Mariners farmhand whose poise -- he threw three shutout innings against the Yankees' regulars in early March -- might get him one.
But Cincy won't have any chance whatsoever without a big year from Arroyo, who got over his bitterness about the trade and earned a spot on the NL All-Star Game roster last summer. "Even if Wily Mo hits 40 [homers], I still don't understand giving up a consistent 200-inning pitcher in that division," he says. "It was tough to take, like your boss yanking you off the best job you've ever had. But I grew to really like Cincinnati, and I like the guys on this team or I wouldn't have signed here."
Arroyo does miss the charged atmosphere in Boston, though. (The Reds played to 63% capacity last season while the Red Sox have sold out nearly every game since May 2003.) "I enjoy everything about pitching in Cincinnati, [but there's nothing like] the vibe of Fenway Park on game days," Arroyo says. "We've got to earn that kind of support in Cincinnati." -- Peter King
Issue date: March 26, 2007