Arroyo gives D-backs proven horse for stable of arms
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bronson Arroyo knew he was going to feel a little funny on Wednesday, when he worked out with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the first time. It marked his first job change in eight years, and he didn't go out looking for a fresh start.
"It's weird, definitely weird for me,'' Arroyo said. "I'm a routine freak. I'm wearing 1999 Kenny Lofton shoes [in games]. I'm still pitching with the glove I've had since the World Series in '04 and still carrying a flip phone. I don't do real well with change. I love something, and tend to stick with it for a long time.''
Arroyo's head has been spinning since he ended his extended free agency by agreeing to a two-year, $23.5 million deal with a club option for 2016. He traveled from his home in Florida to the D-backs' complex for a physical on Tuesday, and was late for his first day of work after he failed to absorb what manager Kirk Gibson told him.
Arroyo threw his first bullpen session by himself at the end of Wednesday's workout, because he apparently went blank when Gibson gave him the schedule.
"He missed his 8:45 bullpen session,'' Gibson said. "We told him he was supposed to be here for an 8:45 bullpen, and he said, 'You told me that?'"
Kevin Towers, the D-backs' general manager, and Gibson will excuse Arroyo for the mixup. They're thrilled to have the 37-year-old right-hander, who is one of the best bets to turn in a 200-inning season. He's done it in eight of the last nine years, missing by three outs in 2011.
"He's a veteran guy, knows what he's doing,'' Gibson said. "I think he'll probably be awesome for our staff, over time. He's going to lead by example. He knows quite a lot about pitching, as we know.''
Arroyo was traded from Boston to Cincinnati in 2006, and spent the last eight seasons with the Reds. He says he envisioned retiring there, but he didn't get the kind of multi-year contract offer that would have locked him up for the rest of his career.
"We had one or two discussions with them,'' he said. "They were just basically pretty satisfied with the rotation they had. If they wanted me, it was going to be a one-year basis. The Joey Votto contract, the Brandon Phillips contract have strapped them quite a bit monetarily.''
Arroyo said he and his agent, Terry Bross, "talked to half the league'' in trying to find a team that wanted him. He often felt he was being sold a bill of goods when teams expressed interest.
"You feel like you're going to buy a used car, to be honest with you,'' he said. "To me it's a joke, the way the process went.''
With his one-of-a-kind leg kick, Arroyo brings a distinctive style to the D-backs. More to the point, he gives Arizona enviable depth in the starting rotation. Along with Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley, Arroyo makes the D-backs the only team in the Majors currently sporting a trio of pitchers coming off 200-inning seasons.
Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill and Randall Delgado make Arizona six deep in veteran starters, which the organization hopes will keep them from rushing 21-year-old Archie Bradley to Chase Field before he's ready.
Arroyo isn't the type of power arm Towers hoped to add at the start of the offseason, when he inquired about Chris Sale, David Price and Jeff Samardzija before aggressively pursuing Masahiro Tanaka. But Arroyo is an intelligent late-bloomer who has avoided injury while becoming a staple at ballparks around the National League.
Towers says Arroyo reminds him of Randy Jones and Livan Hernandez in his ability to pile up zeros without blowing away hitters.
"There are guys who when you see them, you say, 'We'll get [him], he doesn't throw that hard,' " Towers said. "Then it's about the fifth or sixth inning and you've got goose eggs up and you say, 'How are we not hitting this guy?'"
Arroyo has 138 career wins with a pedestrian ratio of 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings. But he has never missed a start. He'll enter 2014 at 355 straight and counting, and he once said the last time he was out for any length of time was when he got shot in a leg with a spear gun at age 9. He believes that throwing in the mid- to high-80s, not the mid-90s, is among the reasons he has consistently avoided the disabled list through the years.
"Probably a combination of a lot of things,'' Arroyo said. "All of us are born in different ways. I was probably fortunate just to be born with a relatively healthy shoulder, having some space in there where things aren't grinding against each other. Also, I've never been a hard thrower. Not having to pitch at max effort helps a lot, I think, in not going out there and feeling I have to empty the tank every night, every pitch to get people out.''
But his father, Gus, a roofer and competitive powerlifter, set the tone when Arroyo was just falling in love with baseball as a kid in Key West, Fla.
"I grew up very strange, where my father had me in the weight room as a 5-year-old kid taking supplements and treating my body as we do as professional athletes,'' Arroyo said. "I've been doing that the last 30 years. I feel like he built a very good foundation for me to understand this game is year-round. Not just something you pick up for two or three months and then take two or three months off and jump back into it.''
Arroyo said a couple of his former teammates had trouble grasping that concept.
"Where I came from, guys like Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, hadn't figured out that this game needed attentiveness 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,'' he said. "The days in between their starts, they were very inconsistent with their workouts, at times not understanding the difference between a carb and protein, just a lot of detail in keeping their body from breaking down.''
There's very little certainty in baseball, but the D-backs grabbed some of it when they added Arroyo. His addition gives them one of the deepest rotations around, so don't say no one saw them coming when they are pushing for the playoffs in September.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.