MANAGER JERRYNARRON third season with Reds
A YEAR later thetrade from baseball-mad Boston to Cincinnati still stings, but at least BronsonArroyo 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 Soxgeneral manager Theo Epstein onstage. But before they could belt out Rockin' inthe Free World together, Arroyo and Epstein were serenaded by the sold-outcrowd with "Bring back Bronson! Bring back Bronson!"
"I thinkit'd be easier if you just traded me to Cincinatti," Epstein told thecrowd.
He's right. TheReds 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 contractextension that pays him $33 million through 2010; that's the kind of money henever would have earned as a fifth starter with the Red Sox. For better orworse, the free-spirited Arroyo is already a fixture in Cincinnati and perhapsthe biggest factor in whether the club even gets out of the bottom half of thedivision. Arroyo, the major league leader with 240 2/3 innings pitched lastyear, and fellow workhorse Aaron Harang (234 1/3 innings) combined for 70starts, 400 strikeouts, a 30--22 record and a 3.53 ERA. "Most baseballpeople agree that Bronson and Aaron make the top of our rotation as strong asany in baseball," Reds CEO Bob Castellini said, after signing both pitchersto deals that should keep them in Cincinnati for the next four years.
That statementmight sound a bit over the top, but it's rare for a team to be able to pencilin two pitchers for about 35 starts apiece--and rarer still for both to exceed230 innings. The Reds were expecting a strong year from 28-year-old fireballerHarang, but they were somewhat surprised when Arroyo gave them more than afourth starter's typical output. He went 14--11 with a 3.29 ERA, twice pitchingon three days' rest in crucial series down the stretch. "No matter how muchI throw, my arm doesn't hurt," he says. "I'd love to be in a four-manrotation. That extra day of rest really doesn't do me any good. I think I couldpitch 300 innings a year without hurting myself."
And Cincinnatiwould 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 theNo. 3 and No. 4 men in the rotation, respectively, but with a combined 5.51 ERAlast year they're more apt to be keeping the seats warm for a couple of youngpitchers, most notably the Reds' top pick from the 2004 draft, 20-year-oldHomer Bailey, a 6'4" string bean who throws 97 mph (page 70). Also biddingfor a rotation spot is 24-year-old Bobby Livingston, a former Mariners farmhandwhose poise--he threw three shutout innings against the Yankees' regulars inearly March--might get him one.
But Cincy won'thave any chance whatsoever without a big year from Arroyo, who got over hisbitterness about the trade and earned a spot on the NL All-Star Game rosterlast summer. "Even if Wily Mo hits 40 [homers], I still don't understandgiving 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'veever had. But I grew to really like Cincinnati, and I like the guys on thisteam or I wouldn't have signed here."
Arroyo does missthe charged atmosphere in Boston, though. (The Reds played to 63% capacity lastseason while the Red Sox have sold out nearly every game since May 2003.)"I enjoy everything about pitching in Cincinnati, [but there's nothinglike] the vibe of Fenway Park on game days," Arroyo says. "We've got toearn that kind of support in Cincinnati."
a modestproposal ...
Ken Griffey Jr.might not like the idea, but the decision to move him out of centerfield islong overdue. In his last four seasons in Seattle, from 1996 through '99, hemade 2.56 putouts per game and won the last four of his 10 consecutive GoldGloves. By comparison, in his last four seasons in Cincinnati, Griffey (left)has made 2.26 putouts per game--which translates into almost 50 balls a seasonthat he no longer had the wheels to catch up to. Not surprising for a playerwho turned 37 in November and hasn't stolen a base in his last 310 games. TheReds have plenty of options to replace him. The most likely scenario hasGriffey swapping positions with speedy outfielder Ryan Freel until prospectChris Denorfia, the Reds' 2005 minor league player of the year, is ready toclaim the every-day job in center.
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
PROJECTED ROSTER WITH 2006 STATISTICS
|KEN GRIFFEY JR.||RF||¬†||¬†||¬†||¬†|
|JOSH HAMILTON (R)*|
* New acquisition
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 77)
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League rankingfor the Reds in home runs (217) last season. Cincinnati was also second inbases on balls (614) but finished ninth in runs scored (749). So, why couldn'tthey score more? A lack of contact. The Reds' 1,192 strikeouts, including AdamDunn's NL--leading 194, contributed to a .257 team batting average, thesecond-lowest in the league behind the Astros.