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02/23/10 5:40 PM EST
Arroyo senses urgency for 2010 Reds
Offseason preparation always key for laid-back righty
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo never sweats the small stuff, or the big stuff. Even if Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols or the eighth hitter just ahead of the pitcher got the best of him, Arroyo's moving forward and thinking ahead to next time. So what if he's blasted on talk radio or the Internet after a game? The veteran starter is incapable of having a bad day at the office. "I've always believed I think about life in a different way," Arroyo said. "There are always extreme situations that will make you realize that a lot of the things we think about in life, they don't mean anything. If you're up in a [Boeing] 747 and the pilot says we have to land in the ocean, instantly the uncomfortable seat, the crying baby, your laptop not working and you being mad at your girlfriend -- all those things don't mean a thing. "I'd rather have a good day every single day. I come to the park. I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to be a baseball player. I'm not going to let something written in the paper, said on TV or what someone says to me dictate my day. I take it like that and play the game hard." Don't let Arroyo's personality be mistaken for apathy. His work ethic has never been questioned, but he is given the freedom to do things his own way. Unlike most pitchers, you'll never see a bag of ice strapped to his arm after throwing. After his Spring Training starts, he's not in the outfield running or conditioning. "After I get on a mound, I never do anything. That was my work," he said. It's obviously a program that's worked for him, because Arroyo has never been on a big league disabled list. He's also thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last five seasons. That doesn't happen by luck or accident. Arroyo throws and works out nearly every day in the winter to prepare him for the daily grind of spring and summer. Now 33 years old, it takes more to get his body ready for baseball and throughout his career, that commitment has extended to the entire year. "I feel like the year-round program is where it's at," Arroyo said. "As bad as I feel after Day 2 of Spring Training, I've been working out every day since Nov. 1. If I took November, December off and got back at it in January, that's where you find guys getting hurt. The body needs a long amount of time to prepare itself for this grind." The winter workouts are rarely in the same place each day since Arroyo leads a nomadic life in the offseason. A Florida resident, he often spends a lot of time at his home in Cincinnati but also takes his rock band to play the occasional show and visit friends in Boston and New York. "Pretty much everywhere I go, I always know where I am lifting and who I will throw with," Arroyo said. "I always have baseballs and two gloves with me no matter where I'm at. I'll run and play catch at Fenway Park with snow on the ground. Regardless, I'm getting my work in. I enjoy doing those things every single day. You think it's a tiny piece of the puzzle and say, 'Maybe I just took an inch from the other guy who stayed inside because it was raining.' At the end of the season, you hope it equates to a few extra wins and staying healthy." Over four of his past five seasons with the Reds and Red Sox, Arroyo has won at least 14 games. He's won 15 games the past two seasons for Cincinnati, including a 15-13 record with a 3.84 ERA in 33 starts in 2009. After a slow start where he was bothered by carpal tunnel soreness in his right hand that required two cortisone shots, Arroyo had a Major League best 2.07 ERA over his final 16 starts after July 10. "He knows the work he has to do to be successful," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "He's been around a while, so it's something he's fine-tuning every year. He's effective. You can't deny that. Whatever he's doing to keep himself on that even keel, you can't argue with it. He's really cool on the mound about not letting any situation affect his demeanor or his focus and concentration. If one pitch didn't go the way he wanted it to, he's right on to the next pitch. He doesn't dwell, which is good." Arroyo might be laid-back, but he also realizes there is some urgency to this season for the Reds. Just like rotation-mate Aaron Harang, Arroyo is in the final guaranteed season of his four-year contract. He is due to make $11 million, with an $11 million club option for 20111 ($2 million buyout). Harang is making $12.5 million. There are a group of prospects close to the big leagues that includes Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman and 2009 top Draft pick Mike Leake. Cincinnati has little room in its budget to maneuver, but after nine consecutive losing seasons, kept the roster together because the front office felt contending for the postseason was realistic. In Arroyo's mind, a fast start for the club is even more paramount this season. He avoided surgery to rid the carpal tunnel issue because he didn't want any recovery setbacks to hurt the team. Arroyo will take a cortisone injection again, if needed, and plans to keep his guitar locked inside its case all season. "I really don't know what lies in store for all of us," Arroyo said. "But I know that with this economy, it will be tough to keep us all around and pay our salaries unless we can do something really good and special this year. If things turn south like the last couple of years, by July 31 there's a good chance some of the pieces of this puzzle won't be here. I know the back of my mind that if we don't get off hot, this is the last chance this team -- with the veteran guys we have here -- to get to the playoffs. We're running out of time."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.