Wayne Krivsky, a special assistant with the Twins, is too modest. He should scream from the highest mountain that he was the man who engineered the Wily Mo Pena-for-Bronson Arroyo heist with the Red Sox when he was general manager of the Reds.
Since that deal, Arroyo has been one of the most unusual, and perhaps one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball.
Arroyo has never been on the disabled list. He has made 319 consecutive starts, including 221 since joining the Reds in 2006. He said he has twice had MRIs on his shoulder before signing multiyear deals with the Reds, but, “They’ve come back completely clean.”
Usually, a pitcher of Arroyo’s experience will have some wear and tear. There are always tears and scar tissue and little problem areas. But Arroyo claims he has none of that.
Freak of nature?
“I don’t know if it’s that or that I’ve learned how to pitch without max effort,” he said. “If I went out there and threw as hard as I could for seven or eight innings and threw every breaking ball at 80 m.p.h., I’d feel it.
“But I pitch the way I pitch. I think you need the confidence to pitch the way I do. You’ve got to have some [guts] to throw Albert Pujols an inside changeup on 3-and-2.”
By “max effort,” Arroyo means that he doesn’t have to throw as hard as he is able to. He can change speeds, pitch more to contact.
“The other thing is, I take care of myself,” he said. “I eat right.
“I love to pitch. The more I pitch, the better I feel. I’m one of those guys who loves being at the ballpark. No matter how good or bad things are going, I love the routine of getting to the park and doing my lifting and throwing and preparing myself for the next start.
“While some guys at the end of the season might be looking forward to that trip to the Bahamas with their family, I just want to go out there and pitch every fifth day, and when it’s over, there’s a void. I love baseball.”
He has gone from being the young guy on those star-studded 2003 and 2004 Red Sox teams to the grizzled veteran and leader of the Reds staff. He was in the 2004 Boston rotation — with Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield — that didn’t miss a start.
He has brought that mind-set to the Reds, whose 2012 staff has done the same.
The result has been much as it was in 2004: success. The Reds, who started Saturday 29 games over .500, have had the best or second-best record in baseball most of the season.
“I’ve always stressed that to our guys: make your starts,” said Arroyo. “I’ve seen a tremendous maturation process from our staff. It wears on the opposition, too.
“They know when they play the Reds that they’re going to get Arroyo, [Mat] Latos, [Johnny] Cueto, [Homer] Bailey, [Mike] Leake. That’s it. They’re not going to catch a break from a spot starter or someone coming up from Triple A. They’re going to face a front line pitcher every day.”
Arroyo has had an amazing record in the second halves of seasons. This year, he is 8-2, 3.56. Overall, he has a .583 winning percentage in the second half (63-45), as opposed to 61-67 (.477) in the first half.
When you’re in a pennant race, that’s a pretty impressive performer to have.
“I just remember coming back from the All-Star break, I had one of my worst starts because I had such a long layoff I wasn’t myself,” he said. “When I’m getting consistent work, and a lot of work, I just pitch better.
“I think a lot of it is between the ears now. I don’t need to throw hard to get hitters out. What I do is, when I need extra, I can go get it late in games.”
He has been at his best in September/October, going 26-12 with a 3.38 ERA. His second-best month is August (24-20, 3.89).
Arroyo is able to change speeds, arm angles, locate.
“I’ve always thought outside the box in everything I do in my life,” he said. “I take that approach with my pitching. I’m always trying to find new ways to get hitters out. You have to change your patterns, your pitch selection. You have to think.”
He also loves the team he’s on. He loves the atmosphere.
“We’re like a bunch of high school/college kids living together and doing things together,” Arroyo said. “There’s no superstar. Joey Votto has the superstar stats, but he’s a regular guy.
“On those good teams in Boston, we just had such a star-studded team. It was more segregated with the superstars and the regular guys and young guys.
“Here, we’re just all together having fun every day and kind of gearing toward a common goal.”
Arroyo called Bryan Price “one of the most prepared and dynamic pitching coaches you’ll ever see. From front to back, his program is amazing. He has an individual game plan for everyone.”
And he thinks manager Dusty Baker has been an excellent leader and should be re-signed (Baker is without a contract for next year).
“I think the Reds have options and Dusty has options,” he said. “It’s not something that anyone thinks about on a daily basis. We have such a good atmosphere here that everyone’s just enjoying everything right now. Dusty is a big part of that.”
Apropos of something
In Year 2 of his reign, Ben Cherington will have the best resources in baseball available to him. Question is, will he use them?
Cherington needs help. He has smart young executives in Mike Hazen and Brian O’Halloran. Now he should surround them with wisdom.
Embrace the resources you have. Don’t discard the vast knowledge of Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk, Jason Varitek, and Tim Wakefield, who can really help your youngsters.
These guys are in your backyard. They’d be thrilled to have bigger roles.
Fisk has said he’d like to work more for the Red Sox but has never been asked. Imagine Evans, with all of his energy and enthusiasm, working with the outfielders (some of whom are fundamentally brutal).
Don’t forget that you have Tommy Harper, Dick Berardino, Frank Malzone, Luis Tiant, and Jeremy Kapstein. Just because they’re older doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing.
Harper is unbelievable when it comes to base running/hitting. Berardino is one of the top fundamental instructors the organization has ever had. Malzone has a great chance to help the third baseman of the future, Will Middlebrooks. What an outstanding resource Tiant has been and could continue to be for the Latin pitchers.
They should be used for more than two weeks in spring training.
Kapstein’s evaluations — on baseball talent and people — are consistently spot-on, according to a couple of the limited partners I spoke to, who can’t believe his input isn’t utilized more.
John Henry has already indicated that Bill James and his sabermetrics will have a bigger role in decision-making. So if you’re reaching out to James, you have to reach out to the real baseball people, don’t you?
Reach out to Pedro Martinez and Wade Boggs. These guys were the greatest at pitching and hitting and work ethic. Rubby De La Rosa, the prospect the Sox received from the Dodgers, idolizes Martinez. Boggs knows a thing or two about hitting and was a self-made Gold Glove third baseman. Tap his knowledge.
It’s all common sense. It’s a plea I’ve made before, one that has fallen on deaf ears.
Of course, the response will be that getting input from all of these outstanding baseball men will mean too many cookies in the cookie jar.
Which is a crummy way to look at things.
Apropos of nothing
1. If John Farrell gets the Boston job, don’t be shocked to see Toronto third base coach Brian Butterfield come with him. The Portland, Maine, resident may be the hardest-working coach in the game.
2. Speaking of Butterfield, the Jays may have the best on-field coaching staff in baseball. Former Red Sox infielder Luis Rivera is tremendous with the infielders and sets a tough but effective tone. Rivera’s contract is up, and he, too, could be part of a Farrell staff in Boston.
3. It’s bad enough that Wade Boggs’s No. 26 isn’t retired, but do the Sox have to give the number to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who walks into the clubhouse?
4. Could Bobby Valentine return next season? If you believe John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino, the answer is yes. They have said this season is not Valentine’s fault. Would they go against what they’re saying publicly? That wouldn’t look good. Valentine also has a year left on his contract. They made a two-year commitment to him, didn’t they?
5. Jim Kaat is one of many against the shutting down of Stephen Strasburg. While the Nationals are a young, up-and-coming team, there’s no guarantee they will walk this walk for years to come. Kaat cited the 1986 Mets, who had a young nucleus of players to be good for a long time but never returned to the World Series.
6. As a longtime supporter of Joe Castiglione for the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award, I was thrilled to see the nice ceremony for him Wednesday. And great to see his former broadcast partner, Jerry Trupiano, who deserves a chance to be back in someone’s booth.
7. Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy have done quite a job keeping their broadcasts entertaining and informative on NESN at such a depressing time in Red Sox history.
8. Entering Saturday, the Rays had lost 26 one-run games. That’s a lot. A sign they are a little short on offense.
9. It would be awful if Melky Cabrera won the National League batting title. There might be union opposition, but should a player suspended for PED use be eligible for anything?
Updates on 9
1. Tony Pena, bench coach, Yankees — One thing he will never do is politick for a managerial job. As much as he’d like to get back to running a team, Pena said, “I love what I do. I love being a coach here with the Yankees and working with the players and the catchers and helping Joe [Girardi]. I really do. If it never happens, I’m OK. I just love putting the uniform on and coming to work every day.” Pena presided over Kansas City’s last winning season, 2003, when he was AL Manager of the Year.
2. Chris Iannetta, C, Angels — He could be an interesting name in free agency. There’s a $5 million team option that he can void (because under his previous contract, he was traded prior to the 2013 season). So he could roll the dice and see if he could earn more than $5 million somewhere else and get a longer-term deal. Catching is hard to come by, so unless he loves being with the Angels, Iannetta could test the market.
3. Victor Martinez, DH/C/1B, Tigers — Detroit has really missed V-Mart’s bat and leadership as he recovered from knee surgery all season. Barring any setbacks, Martinez will be at 100 percent by spring training. It’s expected that he will catch only once in a blue moon, but he still provides that protection. The Tigers want him more for the leadership and bat.
4. Sam and Seth Levinson, agents — As Melky Cabrera’s agents, they are part of the ongoing investigation by MLB and the federal government, and their names appeared on checks written by former Mets catcher Paul LoDuca (in a joint account) to purchase HGH from former Mets clubhouse man Kirk Radomski. According to a major league source, it’s likely that many of the Levinsons’ former and current clients will have to answer questions from investigators. This could get interesting and very ugly. The Levinsons have denied any link with Radomski.
5. Tony La Russa, MLB assistant — The legendary manager has been in ballparks doing special projects for commissioner Bud Selig. And while La Russa consistently says he doesn’t want to manage again, he would be open to a front office job. Yet, the Reds situation is very interesting. Dusty Baker is without a contract for next season but has made the most of his lame duck status. One can’t help but make the St. Louis link from GM Walt Jocketty and owner Bob Castellini to La Russa. People with the Reds say no, this won’t happen . . .
6. Guillermo Quiroz, C, Red Sox — He was obtained from the Mariners early this month and has been on Boston’s roster. He tells an interesting story from January 1999, when he was in the Toronto organization and his SUV was hijacked in Venezuela: “Two guys were following my girlfriend, Mauli, and I. We stopped at a roadside stand for something to eat and two guys stuck guns in our faces through the windows. They put us in the back seat and told us they were only after the truck. They dropped us off 10 minutes down the road. Now, I drive a [car]. In my country, they hijack SUVs, not cars.”
7. Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies — Have the Rockies finally found their long-term catcher? Well, he has hit 24 homers. But there is one issue: defense. He leads the majors with a club-record 19 passed balls (in 736⅔ innings), which is three more than Josh Thole of the Mets, the primary catcher for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Rosario was jumped from Double A when Ramon Hernandez got hurt. There’s an expectation that experience will eventually help Rosario.
8. Wade Davis, RHP, Rays — He remains the most tradeable pitcher on the Rays staff this offseason, and this might be the year they have to part with some pitching depth to obtain hitters. They will need a left fielder, a first baseman, and a catcher. Some scouts wonder whether the Rays devalued Davis by making him a reliever.
9. Alfredo Aceves, RHP, Red Sox — Word is out around the league that he is a handful to manage. Now we know why the Yankees got rid of him. A lot of baseball people who saw Aceves’s act on the mound when he showed up Bobby Valentine were surprised that the Sox front office did nothing to support Valentine. No discipline? What a joke. We’re told that Aceves has had other issues besides the meltdown that got him suspended for three games. The Sox are going to have to make a tough decision. Can you really have a guy like this on the team?
From the Bill Chuck files: “Pirates catchers have thrown out 14 runners in 127 attempts. Nationals catchers have thrown out 19 in 104 attempts. The combined 33 caught-stealings equal the Tigers’ Alex Avila, who has thrown out 33 in 73 attempts.” Also, “The Dodgers’ Carl Crawford has played in 668 wins and 728 losses in his career.” . . . Happy birthday to Brandon Moss (29), Chris Carter (30), Mike Garman (63), and Rogelio Moret (63).