There will be no 'off' in Arroyo's offseason
After tough 2011, veteran eliminating non-baseball distractions
CINCINNATI - Who could blame Bronson Arroyo for leaving the ballpark for the final time this season with a bad taste in his mouth? The Reds starting pitcher's 2011 had all the flavoring of bad cough medicine, and there was no holding his nose to make it go down smoother.Arroyo never wants to experience a season like this one again. He's planned major changes to his offseason routine that make clear where his priorities lie.
If it's not about baseball, it's probably not on Arroyo's agenda.That means no sailing, no performing with his band (except for Redsfest), no golf and little or no traveling. Arroyo, who turns 35 in February, also plans on staying close to home in Brooksville, Fla., all winter. "It's going to be a whole mindset of taking care of myself and that being No. 1, and pushing everything else off," Arroyo said just before his season ended. "I've seen too many people have decent careers fade away very quickly. You're like, 'Whatever happened to that guy? He had a monster year for three or four years.' All of a sudden he's nowhere to be found. I'm not letting that happen to me." Arroyo was 9-12 with a 5.07 ERA in 32 starts with 45 walks, 108 strikeouts and, to add to his torture, 199 innings. Although he worked a complete game and an eight-inning outing during his final two starts, it left him one inning shy of extending his personally coveted 200-inning seasons streak to seven. What will be remembered most are the 46 home runs he allowed. It buried Eric Milton's 2005 club record of 40, and it tied him with Bert Blyleven and Robin Roberts for the third-most allowed all-time in a single season. It was two shy of Jose Lima's National League record, and four from Blyleven's Major League mark of 50. In one statistical oddity, Arroyo was only the second pitcher in history to allow at least 40 homers with fewer than 50 walks in a season. Roberts, a Hall of Famer, did it in 1956 and '57. "Since 2003, I've been satisfied when I left the ballpark at the end of the season with what I did, and contributing to the team the best I possibly could, and I felt like it was what I should have been doing," said Arroyo, who was also third in the NL with 227 hits allowed. "This year, I didn't feel the same. I'm going to just quiet down -- no traveling -- and just be in Florida for other than 20 days the whole offseason." In 2010, as the Reds won a NL Central title, Arroyo played a major role with a career-high 17 victories and 3.88 ERA. It was his third straight year with at least 15 victories. His 215 2/3 innings pitched gave him six consecutive 200-inning seasons. The Reds rewarded him by re-working his 2011 option and signing the right-hander to a three-year, $35 million contract.
Although he has an exterior demeanor that seems laid-back, Arroyo has long been one of the Reds' hardest workers behind the scenes. He's a gym rat who works out and throws nearly year-round. Even when he traveled, he always brought two gloves along to play catch.But that is no longer enough. "There's a big difference between working out in the weight room and knowing you've got to meet some people for golf at 1 p.m., and you kind of half-way your lunch to get to the golf course," Arroyo said. "I'm going to push all of those things completely to the side and make sure about the amount of food I put in my body. "Everything that I do, I have to go above and beyond to try and counteract either age or whatever it is so I can come back and throw the ball a little bit harder. I really think if I can throw the ball 90-91 mph, I can have the same seasons I've always had. People can talk about control all they want. I'm a different type of pitcher than most guys. I pitch people a lot backwards. For me to keep them off my offspeed stuff, they have to respect my fastball. I don't feel like I've been able to do that, especially on the inner half to lefties this year." Some of Arroyo's lack of zip on his pitches could possibly be traced to a bout with mononucleosis that was diagnosed during Spring Training. "The mono might have affected the velocity early and strength," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I don't think it affected the location though. Let's face it, there are good years and bad years. It's something that people don't understand anymore. Steve Carlton lost 20 games. He's in the Hall of Fame. He probably learned more from losing those 20 than he did winning 27." Arroyo is introducing some new layers to his offseason workout routine. The golf clubs are out and a bicycle is in. He plans to ride a bike for distance to get his legs bigger and stronger without harming his back, which also bothered him at times this season. Instead of doing cannonballs off of his boat, he will be swimming laps in a pool to make use of all his muscles. Some players try to clear baseball from their minds in the offseason. Not Arroyo, who has removed the 'off' from offseason. "I will be thinking about this game every day until we get back to Spring Training," he said. "That's just the way it is for me. If this stuff isn't right, then nothing else is any fun for me."