NARRON third season with Reds
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!"
it'd be easier if you just traded me to Cincinatti," Epstein told the
He's right. The
Reds won't be giving up Arroyo, whom they acquired for outfielder Wily Mo Pe�a,
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 240 2/3 innings pitched last
year, and fellow workhorse Aaron Harang (234 1/3 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.
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."
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 (page 70). 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."