Former Cincinnati Reds Pitcher Bronson Arroyo Discusses Curveballs, Music upon Reds Hall of Fame Induction Announcement

Arroyo says he may even perform during his induction ceremony in July.

click to enlarge Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo will bring his high kick and his guitar to his July 2023 induction into the Reds Hall of Fame. - Photo: provided by the Cincinnati Reds
Photo: provided by the Cincinnati Reds
Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo will bring his high kick and his guitar to his July 2023 induction into the Reds Hall of Fame.

The 2023 Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame induction ceremony will feature a bit of guitar, if Bronson Arroyo has anything to say – or sing – about it.

"As long as we can make it work out logistically, yeah, we're going to do it," Arroyo – who's both a pitcher and a musician – told reporters with a grin.

Major League Baseball and the Reds announced Oct. 27 that Arroyo will be inducted into the franchise's hall of fame as part of the 2023 class. Arroyo was selected via ballot from fans, former Reds players and media members, press materials said.

The 45-year-old Arroyo moved from reliever to starter early in his professional career and spent eight consecutive seasons with the Reds between 2006 and 2013. He followed that up with a final season in Cincinnati in 2017 before retiring from the game.

During his time in the big leagues, Arroyo was a reliable, durable workhorse – an innings eater and shutout machine. As a Red, he pitched more than 200 innings in every season except for two, even nabbing 240 2/3 innings in 2006. Arroyo also was good for strikeouts, routinely throwing more than 120 per Reds season except for in 2017. Other than that year, he pitched at least 30 games per season while in Cincinnati.

Over his entire Reds career, Arroyo tossed 1,157 strikeouts – something just five other pitchers for the club have done.

Arroyo's big 2012 postseason moment endeared him to Queen City fans forever. As the Reds' starter for game two of the National League Division Series, Arroyo had a perfect game through five innings and the team beat the San Francisco Giants 9-0 (Cincinnati would end up losing the series in five games).

The future of MLB pitching

Arroyo had at least four go-to pitches – slider, changeup, moving fastball and curveball – that served him well, but the pitching game has changed since his heyday, he said. Speaking to reporters via Zoom, Arroyo said that today's pitchers typically rely on fastballs and sliders rather than carrying a full arsenal of different pitches.

"I think we've caught a two-, three-, four-, five-year gap right now where it's been nothing but pure velocity – 95-100 [MPH] and mostly all those guys only have the ability to throw a slider off that fastball," Arroyo said. "The days of a guy who can throw a nice bigger breaking ball and a little bit of a changeup and kind of cut it and sink it a little bit up around 93, 94 [MPH] like [Clayton] Kershaw used to, you know, some of that stuff has been completely absent from the game."
That may change soon, he said.

"I believe the pendulum is going to swing back here very shortly. I don't believe that 95-100 [MPH] with just a slider and not being able to throw a strike with your secondary pitch most of the time is going to survive the next 10 years," Arroyo said. "It's sexy sometimes when it works; it definitely works out of the bullpen. But for a guy who's going to go out there and give you six-to-seven innings every night, I don't think it's taylor-made for that job. I'm hoping that you start seeing some other guys throwing 93, 94 [MPH] who have a little bit more of a bigger repertoire and can go out there and kind of compete not only with a little bit of their skill set but what's going on between their ears."

The retired pitcher noted that Cincinnati's young pitchers – namely Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcroft – already are doing well and likely will continue to improve with experience.

"With Greene and Ashcroft and Lodolo and the guys that I've seen this past year, you're seeing them just wear the green off themselves, right? It takes a certain amount of time to establish yourself in the game. Once you've done that with one way that you can beat the hitters, then everyone in the league is going to adjust to you if you're good enough," Arroyo said. "When they make that next adjustment, if you solidify yourself on that second turnaround and say, 'I'm still here, I can still give you quality starts, I can still do 12-plus games every year,' then I think you're seasoned enough to say, 'Hey, I'm an established major-league player.'"

"I don't think those guys are quite over the hump yet, [but] I really like physically what I'm seeing from them. They battle, they've got good demeanor, they're not flustered out on the mound or having starts where they're getting roughed up, so that's all a good sign," Arroyo continued. "But I think it's going to take all of next year and maybe into that next one to really put a stamp on some of these guys and say, 'Hey, that's a front-line major-league starter, and he's going to be here for a while.'"

Arroyo knows what he's talking about. As a strikeout and finesse pitcher, Arroyo has pitched his way out of plenty of jams with a good change-up or curveball. He threw for a number of teams other than the Reds, most notably the Boston Red Sox, with whom he won a World Series in 2004.

Finding a home in Cincinnati

When Arroyo was traded from Boston to Cincinnati in 2006, he wasn't enthused, he said.

"I was sorely disappointed for sure. I don't know if there's been a moment in my life that's probably been lower than that phone call that [then-general manager and executive vice president for Boston] Theo Epstein gave me," Arroyo confessed. "Three years in, you win a World Series in such a special place in Boston, and I really was entrenched there and was looking forward to doing that for the next six or seven years. And for him to pull the plug on me just [was] completely unexpected. It was a huge downer."

Arroyo, who grew up in Key West, Florida, said that moving to Cincinnati for the trade was difficult.

"I remember coming to Cincinnati and that first night trying to find my way through Mount Adams, which was almost impossible without GPS back then," Arroyo said. "I just felt like, you came to spring training with the Red Sox camp and they had a chef putting food out and we [with the Reds] had no breakfast. There was a lot of things: we didn't have a chiropractor, we didn't have a masseuse at the time. There was a lot of things that felt like I was moving backwards in the game, you know?"

He found his footing, though, thanks to a great start with the Reds. Arroyo won four of his five starts in April 2006, posting a 2.34 ERA with 30 strikeouts over 34.2 innings.

"But slowly over time... you know, it probably took me, I'd say, the first three months of that first season in '06 to really stop watching Red Sox games and feel like I was really a part of that Reds lineup," Arroyo says. "I feel very fortunate that I got off to a good start, to have people enjoy and love me right out of the gate and not be like, 'Wow, we traded for this guy and he hasn't done anything for us.' Once I realized it was a smaller town, it really fit the bill for me a bit better than a bigger town like Boston. [It was] a place where I could go out at night where people weren't writing about you in the paper and stuff. It's been a joy ever since."

Moving to music

Arroyo retired from MLB in 2017 after being sidelined with elbow trouble, but his foray into music came long before that. In 2005, Arroyo released Covering the Bases, an album of covers that were originally performed by popular '90s grunge and alt-rock bands like Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Toad the Wet Sprocket. For him, the '90s offered an influential era of music, Arroyo said, noting that he listened to acts like Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, Bush and Hootie and the Blowfish.

"If you rewind to the beginning of your career, 1995 was kind of the heyday after Soundgarden and Pearl Jam and Nirvana had hit as I come out of high school," Arroyo said. "And so I'm carting 100 CDs around the minor leagues. In 1996 I'm playing for the Augusta Greenjackets. You're riding on buses sometimes from eight to 13 hours."
Arroyo, who plays guitar and sings, said that the music of the day motivated him.

"These records are so infused in me. It feels like part of your life in a lot of ways and part of a fuel and a driving force not only for your workouts but for the reason you get up in the morning and go play baseball and grind around the country not making a lot of money," Arroyo said. "The music has always been very big and I felt like part of a fuel and fire that kept me going for a long time."

Arroyo will be inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in July during pre-game ceremonies plus a formal gala. But there's no way he'll have the experience without music, he said.

"I thought about this for a while because I've been to a handful of these inductions, and I can remember sitting there. It feels like a gala, it feels like a show," Arroyo said. "I have no doubt that I could just stand up there and talk and make it interesting, but I feel in my heart of hearts that bringing the music, infused in there, it wouldn't be complete [without music]."

Arroyo, who will perform at the Extra Innings Festival in Tempe, Arizona, in February alongside Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Green Day, already is planning on how to raise the party stakes.

"Without playing a little bit of music, I feel like it wouldn't do it justice," Arroyo said.

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