When a line drive careened off the hand of Reds workhorse Bronson Arroyo on Sunday, marking the second straight day a member of the starting rotation left the game after being hit, the wheels started spinning before he exited Surprise Stadium.
The veteran hurler told manager Dusty Baker he feared the worst.
“My heart sank when I heard it first, then I saw it,” Baker said Monday before the Reds lost to the Mariners 16-0 at Goodyear Ballpark. “He told me that was the end, it was broken.”
At that point, Baker started running through scenarios, trying to rework the gameplan for the early part of the season. The Reds open regular-season play in Monday against the Los Angeles Angels.
“That’s what I thought … what are we gonna do? How long is he gonna be out? You start having all those thoughts,” Baker said.
Surprisingly, after spending some time with trainers, Arroyo was spry and peppy while floating around the team’s complex on Monday, and he said he expects to make his next start. His hand looks bruised, but there are no breaks, according to the team.
“It’s a miracle,” Baker said.
For Arroyo, this spring is a curious one. The team’s most tenured member, he’s firmly entrenched in a rotation that’s expected to contend for a divisional title. But now 36 years old, Arroyo is in the final year of an expensive contract with up-and-coming pitchers Homer Bailey and Mike Leake likely to get sizable deals in the off-season.
Also, he’d been off to a better-than-normal start this spring, surrendering just five runs in his first four outings before giving up nine hits and three runs to the Rangers on Sunday.
Baker said the key to Arroyo’s longevity — he’s started at least 32 games in nine straight seasons — is his preparation.
“This guy takes pride in pitching and being able to pitch. I’ve only seen a few like him in my career. Very few, actually,” Baker said. “It’s his love of the game and his dedication. He never takes a day off. He never takes the All-Star Break off.
“If everybody was like him, they’d maximize their careers.”
As for the injury, it was the second bullet the team dodged in as many days. On Saturday, Mat Latos was hit on the leg and left the contest. Latos said he’s OK and he’s scheduled to make his next start. But a longer-than-normal spring training has increased the chances for injuries, as the Reds are playing a record 35 games in total.
“It’s just like, let’s get out of here pretty soon,” Baker said.
Donald back: Jason Donald has been in a hotly contested battle for the utility infielder’s position, and since he came into camp on the team’s 40-man roster, he held an edge over Emmanuel Burriss and Cesar Izturis.
But with Donald suffering through some minor injuries, his roster spot is still tenuous. The former Cleveland Indian, who came over in a deal with Shin-Soo Choo, is out of options, meaning the team can’t send him to Triple-A.
Donald is hitting over .300 this spring, but Izturis is hitting .326 and has shown a steady glove. Now that Donald is healthy again, Baker said he was scheduled to play in the minor-league camp on Monday as a designated hitter.
“We’ll see where he is,” Baker said. “He’s anxious to get back. It’s hard to make the team in the training room. But if you’re hurt, you’re hurt. We’ll see how he is.”
Extra bases: The Reds need to decide on catcher Miguel Olivo by today, either signing him to a major-league deal, releasing him or giving him a $100,000 retention bonus to go to Triple-A. … Baker gave his team a pep talk prior to Monday’s contest, hoping to pick up the intensity down the final stretch of the spring. So much for that. In the first inning, Brandon Phillips and right fielder Xavier Paul miscommunicated on a lazy fly, keying a three-run rally by the Mariners. … Among those on hand at Monday’s game was Centerville native and TV broadcaster Kirk Herbstreit. … A pair of relievers fighting for a job in the bullpen are scheduled to take the baton from Johnny Cueto in Mesa tonight (10:05 p.m. EST) as Alfredo Simon and Clay Hensley will both see work. Simon struggled before going to the World Baseball Classic, and has only pitched a single inning of Double-A ball since returning. Meanwhile, Hensley looked like a sleeper to make the club until he gave up four earned runs against Seattle back on March 14, but he’s since rebounded with two decent showings.