CLEVELAND — Christian Arroyo has played for four teams over parts of six seasons in the major leagues and hit .231.
Nothing about that would suggest he was the 25th overall pick of the 2013 draft. But Arroyo was taken ahead of several notable players, Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, and Trey Mancini among them.
Yikes. But when you watch Arroyo in person for a few days, you begin to understand what the scouts from the San Francisco Giants saw watching him play high school ball in Florida.
Arroyo hits the ball hard when he makes contact, has a strong arm, and runs well.
At 27, those skills haven’t been dulled. Injuries have held back Arroyo and he’s had the misfortune of landing with some teams that didn’t have much playing time for a middle infielder.
The Red Sox don’t necessarily either with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Trevor Story at second base. But with Bogaerts getting a day off, Arroyo was in the lineup against the Guardians Friday night.
The first-round pick showed up. Arroyo was 3 for 4 with three RBIs in a 6-3 victory. His two-run homer in the seventh inning, a 405-foot shot to center field, broke a 2-2 tie.
The Sox have won 10 of 12, including five in a row.
Arroyo hadn’t played since June 12. He tested positive for COVID-19 three days later and spent 10 days on the injured list waiting to get through the protocols.
He’s gotten used to it. Arroyo has been on the injured list seven times over the last five seasons.
“I’m not happy about it. I’m not proud of it. The biggest thing is coming in here and just relaxing and just playing the game,” he said. “When you take that mentality stuff just kind of happens.”
Stuff certainly happened on Friday. Arroyo was hit in the elbow by a two-strike fastball from Cal Quantrill with the bases loaded in the second inning.
He pointed to his teammates in the dugout and jogged to first.
Arroyo was thrown out at the plate in the fifth inning trying to tag up on a fly ball to shallow right field that Oscar Gonzalez caught just off the grass. The throw beat him but Arroyo nearly got his foot on the plate.
Then came the game-deciding home run in the seventh inning.
Arroyo made a standout defensive play, too. With Amed Rosario on first base in the third inning, Josh Naylor hit a ball sharply up the middle.
Arroyo, who was shifted to the other side of second base, made a sliding play to stop the ball, hopped up and got a tag on Rosario when his foot came off the base and they nearly collided.
“It happened really fast,” Arroyo said. “It was more self-defense.”
The Red Sox were stacking up wins while Arroyo was quarantined in his apartment. He only felt sick for a few days but wasn’t allowed to work out at Fenway Park.
Once he was cleared, Arroyo played two games at Triple A Worcester and was 0 for 6.
“He wasted his outs in Worcester,” manager Alex Cora said.
First-round picks always get second, third or fourth chances in baseball because there is underlying talent.
The Sox claimed Arroyo off waivers from the Guardians during the forgettable 2020 season. Arroyo played 16 games for Tampa Bay in 2019 and Chaim Bloom was familiar with him.
Arroyo has since started games at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, right field, and DH. He even pitched a scoreless inning last season.
“He brings energy every day. He tries so hard and we like him a lot,” Cora said.
It’s not perfect. Arroyo was in line to be the starting second baseman this season before the Sox signed Story. He still believes he can be an everyday player.
“You can look at the numbers and say, ‘He’s not good enough.’ But it’s about getting opportunities. Last year I was playing every day for a while and I was producing.
“You do the best you can. I like being here. We’re playing great and I helped us out [Friday]. That’s what matters.”