Arroyo is "Old Man" of Reds Roster

Last season Bronson Arroyo was again a big part of the Reds rotation. The durable veteran quietly kept his team in games while eating up innings like he's done for several seasons. The Reds have some top pitching prospects at the top of their pipeline, but this season they'll continue to rely on Arroyo every fifth day.

There is a lot of excitement for Reds fans as they anticipate the upcoming season and their team gives them good reason. Expectations include Joey Votto's proficiency with a bat, Aroldis Chapman's triple digit fastball, Johnny Cueto's contention for the first Cy Young in the history of the franchise, and Brandon Phillip's dazzling defense. Their roster is blessed with both youth and experience. And then there's Bronson Arroyo, who is now the team's "senior citizen" after the departures of Miguel Cairo and Scott Rolen.

It won't be the first time the 36 year-old right-hander will appear to be out of a different mold. He invokes that opinion at the first sight, from the long hair to the high, straight leg kick in his consistent delivery. His tall, slender physique isn't what one would expect for someone who is possibly the most durable pitcher in today's game.

Arroyo has been through some lean times with the Reds. When he arrived in 2006 their pitching staff was pretty much him, Aaron Harang and a host of others that would have no shot of landing a job in their rotation of today. Short on pitching as they were, they needed a workhorse and he's been one for the past seven years. Whatever unfolds for Cincinnati in 2013 it's a fairly safe bet that Arroyo will once again eat 200 innings while keeping his team in games. His personality may be unique, but his performance is somewhat predictable. He's logged at least 199 IP every season in Cincinnati and is poised to enter the franchise's top-ten list for strikeouts. That's a heckuva trade return for Wily Mo Pena.

He's carved out a nice career despite the absence of radar-popping velocity on the mound. Instead he's relied on finesse, precision, and one of the highest pitching IQ's in the league. Though his age might be considered a bit long in the tooth by MLB standards it's not a big concern with Arroyo because his game is not overpowering hitters. Instead his efficient delivery has been ready every single turn in his team's rotation since 2004.

To give a bit of perspective on longevity, when the Pirates drafted him in the third round in 1995 it was sixteen picks after the Indians selected Sean Casey. Last season Arroyo was still going strong when Casey was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. In between those the Reds selected Brett Tomko who was their opening day starter in 1999 and included in a trade package for Ken Griffey Jr. after that season.

Arroyo has survived some ups and downs over his career. He won 15 games in three consecutive seasons with the Reds and might have cracked twenty if he'd had a better team around him. Before coming to Cincinnati he collected a ring when Boston broke the curse of the Bambino in 2004. In 2008 he had a near-five ERA and his future didn't look bright when it was higher than that going into July the next year. Instead of losing his job he caught fire over the last half of the season and finished below four. Mononucleosis and back problems probably should have caused him to miss some action in 2011 but there were other pitchers on the Reds DL so Arroyo continued to take the ball every fifth day and struggled through the worst season of his career. He came back last year with a 3.74 ERA and added seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the NLDS.

As reliable as he's been, there's still some doubts on his long term future with the team. He's in the final year of a contract and due $11.5 million. The Reds would like to keep him, but a couple of their top pitching prospects will be starting AAA this season and there's the reality of payroll constraints that small markets have to face. Also, the next step after building a winner is sustaining one and players on the backside of 35 can be candidates for turnover.

If they make a tough business decision there will be some remorse because Arroyo is part of the foundation upon which the current contender was built. In the meantime he's still an important part of a team aspiring to win its first championship in 23 years. Despite the free-spirited persona he emits, Arroyo is a true professional and won't let contract status interfere with performance. He also knows that there's always a job somewhere for a 200 IP/<4 ERA pitcher. Not many players collect two rings from different teams separated by nine years, but then again not many players are like Bronson Arroyo. He doesn't figure to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but if there was a Hall of Unique, he'd enter on the first ballot.

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