BOR CATCHES UP WITH BRONSON ARROYO
Fresh off his trip to Costa Rica, Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo took time out on Wednesday afternoon to chat with Better Off Red. The following is a transcript from that interview. To hear the audio version of the interview, click on the MP3 below.
Better Off Red: Hey Bronson, thanks for joining us here on Better Off Red. The last time we spoke, we were judging the karaoke contest at Redsfest.
Bronson Arroyo: < Laughter> Right.
Better Off Red: I heard through the grapevine that you went on another boating trip. Care to give us the scoop on that?
Bronson Arroyo: Well it wasn’t one of my boating trips but it was a trip to Costa Rica. I took Mike Leake and ex-Red Chris Denorfia and a couple of other friends. We went down to Costa Rica; did some fishing, played some golf, did some zip-lining through the jungle. I didn’t have my boat, but it was a good time.
Better Off Red: Very nice. How’s “Deno” doing?
Bronson Arroyo: He’s doing good. He just got his first Major League guaranteed contract with the San Diego Padres and I guess he’s looking forward to playing a good bit of centerfield next year.
Bronson Arroyo: Yeah, I’ve been here for five years and it’s a nice feeling to know I’m going to be here for the next three. We’ll have an opportunity to push deeper into the playoffs with a young ball club that definitely has a good upside. And coming into camp in Arizona and the beautiful new complex is also an added bonus.
Better Off Red: What I found interesting in your case was that this kind of started right around the conclusion of the season when there were reports that you weren’t going to take a hometown discount and that perhaps you weren’t going to have money deferred. Usually, when a player says that, it’s followed by a testy, lengthy and very public contract negotiation. That actually wasn’t the case here. It got done quietly and quickly. If the reports of deferred money and taking less through the first couple of years are true, that leads me to believe that you really wanted to stay in Cincinnati. Can you speak to that?
Bronson Arroyo: Yeah for sure. It wasn’t a lengthy process. I’ve never been a greedy guy. I took an undervalued deal in Boston and the way the market has exploded this offseason, I probably took an undervalued deal here in Cincy as well. But you know, I felt like they were treating me fair. Once we got to $35 million, they felt like they needed some room to pay this thing out over a lengthy amount of time in order to make things happen for the ball club. So, I agreed to defer some money. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. A guaranteed contract is a guaranteed contract whether you get it now or later, so that wasn’t the big issue. The big issue was that I wanted to make sure that the organization felt that I was going to be around here and be productive for the next three years. I didn’t want to feel like I was taking an undervalued deal to get sent somewhere else.
Better Off Red: You’ve been part of this organization for a while now. You’re familiar with the hardships this club has endured over the years. How special was the 2010 season to you personally, and how did you see the team change from the previous sub .500 seasons?
Bronson Arroyo: It was hugely gratifying based on the fact that I had been there for four years prior and never really had a chance to get into the playoffs other than ’06. The team has really shifted from being a little bit of an older club primarily focused on the offense to now having a much more well-balanced ball club with young starting pitching and position players that have a bit more speed and are a little bit more younger; and having a solid bullpen. So 2010, just to get into the playoffs was huge for us. I’ve been in this organization for five years and over the previous four, we were running uphill. When you’re 13, 14 games back at the All-Star break, it’s no fun and you feel like you’re only playing for your personal goals. That’s fine at the end of the day when you’re trying to get a new contract, but I think the most gratifying part of the game, without question, is to feel like it’s a team and a family and to go into the playoffs and to think all the work you’ve done over the last seven or eight months was worth it.
Better Off Red: 2011 is going to be your first season with the Reds without Aaron Harang as a teammate. Is that going to be weird for you and some of the veterans in the clubhouse, not seeing big #39 around?
Bronson Arroyo: Yeah, it definitely will be a little bit. I’ve been his biggest supporter for a long time. Some people probably wrote him off or were disappointed in him the last few years. I thought he should’ve been our number one starter over the last three years and I spoke of that to the organization and that’s why Aaron was in that spot the last couple of years. I’ve never seen a guy whose numbers went downhill like his did while never really being hurt. He had little minor (injuries) but his stuff was good. He was throwing 91-92 and I just could not figure out why he wasn’t able to put up those same numbers that he did in ’06 and ’07. But regardless of that, it’s definitely going to be sad to look to my left and not see Aaron Harang at his locker. Hopefully at the end of the season next year, we can write him down on the ballot as the Comeback Player of the Year.
Better Off Red: With the recent addition of Cliff Lee, do you think we should just give the 2011 world championship to the Phillies?
Bronson Arroyo: No, because in the playoffs, anything can happen. But I would, if you’re going to Vegas, I’d go ahead with the Phillies to win that division. They’ve got four true number one starters in the game. And probably in Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, I’d say two of the four best pitchers in the game. If you have that with the offense they have in that small ballpark, I feel like the Mets and the Braves are in trouble.
Better Off Red: You and Mike Leake have formed a friendship. It seems to me that you’re kind of like a mentor to him. Is this kid the real deal and should the fans get excited about having him in a Reds uniform?
Bronson Arroyo: I definitely think he’s the real deal. I haven’t seen a guy, his age, be able to adapt and to adjust on the mound and be as confident as he has been. Especially throwing strikes to the big league hitters he’s seeing for the first time. Whether he can stay healthy is going to be the number one thing. As long as his arm is healthy and he can throw the ball between 87 and 92, I feel like he’s going to be a solid Major League starter for a long time. Keeping his arm and his shoulder and his back and all the other things we need to pitch healthy, is always a huge factor in a lot of guys’ careers.
Bronson Arroyo: I think Johnny Cueto, for one. He’s seen for himself over the last three years what he needs to do to be a good Major League pitcher. I feel like his command of the strike zone and his strength of throwing the ball 94, 95 miles per hour is going to be pretty consistent. I feel that Johnny will be very good. Obviously, Joey Votto is one of the greatest hitters in the game right now. I find it hard to believe he couldn’t hit .300 even with his eyes closed. I think those two guys (are key). And we should look for a big season from Drew Stubbs. He’s got so many weapons and so many tools. Last year, he got off to a really really bad start and dug himself out of a hole to put up some pretty good numbers. So, I think Drew is going to be a huge factor in us winning ball games next year.
Better Off Red: How nice was it for you to finally be recognized for your stellar defense by winning your first Gold Glove this year?
Bronson Arroyo: Well it was nice. I grew up an Ozzie Smith fan. I thought I’d be a big league shortstop and as I got to be 16-17 years old, I came to the realization that I was going to be a little more productive on the mound. Thus, I got drafted as a pitcher. I’ve always enjoyed defense, I’ve always enjoyed taking infield – even in the offseason. So, yeah, to win a Gold Glove is definitely a nice feather to have in my cap.
Bronson Arroyo: I’m happy for Jay. Obviously, all of us go through a grind in the game. He got up to the big leagues probably a little bit quicker than most. But with that being said, hopefully it makes him comfortable in his skin to know that he’s got a good amount of money coming to him over the next 5-6 years. Hopefully it will make him a little more productive on the field. He’s slowly gotten better and better, and he’s had a couple of freak injuries the last couple of years. Hopefully this year we can keep him healthy from front-to-back and really see what he can do over 162 games. You know, in my personal opinion, I don’t think that contract is going to weigh at all on Joey Votto. I think Joe Votto is going to capitalize on what he feels he should in the game. And I don’t think the organization will be able to make a long-term deal with him any time in the near future.
Better Off Red: Have you ever been asked by a GM or an owner to call free-agents to try and lobby them to sign with the team?
Bronson Arroyo: I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that by a general manager. I’ve had other players call me and ask me about the organization I was in and that they were thinking about signing with the Reds. But never have I been asked by the general manager to do that.
Bronson Arroyo: Musically?
Better Off Red: Yes.
Bronson Arroyo: Well, I haven’t heard anything really new. Most of the stuff that comes out of my mouth is old news. Ever since I saw Pearl Jam on May 6 in Columbus on an off-day, I’ve been kind of stuck listening to a lot of older Pearl Jam stuff and kind of finding some songs that I didn’t really listen to a lot in my younger years.
Better Off Red: The concert at Redsfest was great and a lot of folks were not only impressed with your performance but also impressed with the gentleman (Ben Lapps) who opened up for you. Can you let us know a little bit about him?
Bronson Arroyo: Yeah, you know I didn’t know anything about him up until that time. I was completely shocked that he had only been playing the guitar for 4-5 years and learned it off of YouTube. Some of the stuff he was doing was amazing. I went and looked him up on YouTube after the fact, and he’s definitely a gifted kid and should be able to make a living doing what he’s doing. He’s something pretty special.
Better Off Red: Alright, Bronson. It’s always a pleasure. Thanks a bunch for joining us today and happy holidays to you and your family.
Bronson Arroyo: Alright, Jamie have a good one.