GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Bronson Arroyo is the center of attention again — just like old times.
The 40-year-old right-hander is a performer on the mound and has performed on stage with a guitar in his hands. After 2 1/2 years out of the bright lights of Major League baseball, Arroyo just wanted to pitch pain-free.
Sal Romano, who followed Arroyo to the mound, wasn’t even 2 years old when Arroyo was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with third pick in the 1995 draft.
“There was a little excitement in the dugout today for a spring training game,” Reds pitching coach Mack Jenkins said. “Guys were excited to have him out there. He kind of looked like his old self today. He’s happy pitching pain-free, different arm angles, speeds, unique breaking balls. It was fun to watch.”
Arroyo, in spite of a slight build in which 190 pounds are spread over a 6-foot-4 frame, was an iron man, a durable performer who pitched at least 200 innings in eight of nine seasons between 2006 and 2013 — his last year with the Reds.
The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Arroyo away from Cincinnati for the 2014 season, while the Reds were trying to get younger and more frugal financially. Arroyo, who was never on the disabled list in his eight years in Cincinnati, made 14 starts and was 7-4 with a 4.08 ERA when he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. Elbow and shoulder surgeries made Arroyo’s brief stay with the Diamondbacks largely unproductive.
The 16-year veteran did not pitch at all in 2015 and was traded twice. Arroyo signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals. He spent the entire season on the disabled list of Triple-A Syracuse, making two short rehab appearances.
Arroyo signed with Reds on Feb. 3 with a chance to earn a spot on the roster with several different roles in mind — from starter to long relief to middle relief.
“His stuff plays well in any role,” manager Bryan Price said. “He just has to show us he’s healthy.”
Homer Bailey had bone chips removed from his elbow five days later, leaving a hole in the Reds’ starting rotation.
Arroyo’s birthday was Feb. 24, but he missed several days with the flu. He came back on Tuesday to throw in a simulated game and reported no pain. He got the ball Sunday against the Brewers.
Early Sunday morning, the Reds announced that Anthony DeSclafani would likely start the season on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right elbow, giving the Reds three spots to fill in the starting rotation.
Arroyo’s chances to win one of them improved as he pitched two innings against the Brewers with a possibility that he could join Scott Feldman and Brandon Finnegan in the starting rotation. The Reds have several pitchers in camp that have fewer than two years of big league experience.
Arroyo faced seven batters. He gave up a single to Scooter Gennett to start the game, then retired the next six in order, two by strikeout.
“I had no stress on the elbow or the shoulder,” Arroyo said. “I got sore in places I wanted to get sore in. I got to attack some hitters. It was fun. Today was as good as I could hope for all the way around.”
Arroyo believes he can help best as a starter.
“I haven’t been in the bullpen for so long,” he said. “I think I bring a lot more to the table as a starter. It’s hard to go out there and have some tricks up your sleeve. It’s hard to do that when it’s a sprint for one inning. You’ve got to be out there for six or seven innings and play this chess match with the hitters, but you also have to be one of the best five guys in the rotation to do that.”
The end of his playing days is near and Arroyo knows it.
“If I feel healthy and I’m throwing the ball over the plate, but can’t make this ballclub, I’m not going to pitch anywhere, anymore,” Arroyo said. “If I can continue to get my reps in between and get three innings, four innings, five and feel like I did today, I can really help this ballclub.”