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Schilling knew Arroyo better by the end of the season—Arroyo went 10--9 with a 4.03 ERA—but the ace still didn't believe in him. "He'd see me in the hot tub after the game and say, 'Look at this little skinny guy. Can you believe this little wet rat right there?' " Arroyo says. "He told me, 'You'll never throw 230 innings with that body.' "
Two years later, his first after the Red Sox traded him to the Reds, Arroyo reached 233 innings with one start to go. He had a friend take a photograph of his still slight frame, naked save for a strategically placed sanitary sock on which he had inscribed 230+ with a black marker. He had the photo enlarged at a Walgreens and sent to the Red Sox clubhouse. "Dear Curt," Arroyo wrote in the accompanying note. "You told me in 2004 that I could never throw 230 innings with this body. You should know better than anyone that it's not how much you weigh, it's what you've got hanging between your legs."
Schilling, who kept Arroyo's gift in his locker for a time, was not alone in doubting Arroyo's durability. "When I first saw him coming into the league, with the Pirates, I didn't think this guy was going to be around for more than a couple of years," says Baker.
Says Arroyo, "I used to get, 'He don't give a f---. I think that guy's smoking a bowl and playing guitar on the beach, and he doesn't really care about this game.' What they didn't understand was, I was already beating them to the punch."
Arroyo started beating them there as a boy in Key West, under the tutelage of his father, Gus. "I grew up a little strange," Bronson says. Gus was a roofer by trade and a competitive powerlifter. He could bench-press 440 pounds. Gus, who emigrated from Cuba as a child, was not a baseball player, but when the young Bronson displayed an aptitude for the sport, Gus felt he could help the boy excel by training him as he himself trained.
"People thought his dad was nuts," says Perry Logan, a neighbor and childhood friend of Bronson's who also worked out with Gus and who pursued graduate studies in environmental health. "The gym was basically a slab of concrete in their backyard with a plywood box on top of it, probably 15 by 40, and people were like, 'What are you doing having a seven-year-old lifting weights in there?' "
The son took supplements and carbo loaded and lifted weights nearly every day, focusing on exercises that strengthened his legs and back. By the time he was eight he could squat 250 pounds. He has the videos to prove it.
Arroyo is certain that his early training regimen has helped him in two ways. First, it gave him a strength out of proportion to his slender build, a strength he maintains by performing a daily workout his father taught him. For at least 10 years Arroyo has done the routine to the Pearl Jam album Ten. "Guys are like, 'Bro, why do we have to listen to Vedder every day?' " he says. "I say, 'Because Vedder's talking to me, keeping me going. My f------ knees hurt, and I need to do these squats.' "
Second, his dad's training convinced him that he can pursue whatever outside interests he enjoys and still succeed as a major leaguer as long as he maintains a rigorous baseline routine. "What we did at that time made it easy for me to come to the ballpark every day, year after year after year, and look at this game in a positive light, not as a grind," Arroyo says.
He has not missed a start during his 13-year career: 344 and counting. In fact, the last time he missed a start, he was a child. "When I was nine I got shot in the leg with a spear gun that you shoot fish with, so I missed the second half of the season," he says. "That's the only time I can ever remember being down."