By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It is difficult to witness any career spiral to below sea level, a career crash and burn to ashes.
Baseball career obituaries are neither fun nor easy to write.
And it is more difficult when it happens to a class act, to a guy more honest than Abe and more hard-working than Big Bad John.
That, though, probably was the case Sunday afternoon for 40-year-old Bronson Arroyo. Those sitting in the heat of Great American Ball Park probably witnessed in person his last start for the Cincinnati Reds and his last appearance in a major league uniform.
ARROYO PITCHED ONLY THREE innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers and gave up five runs and seven hits, including a two-run double to opposing pitcher Kenta Maeda — hitting .105 at the time — and a two-run 442-foot upper deck home run to Logan Forsythe.
It was the 23rd home run hit off Arroyo in 70 innings this season. It dropped his record to 3-and-6 and upped his earned run average to 7.31.
When the day concluded, the Reds were owners of a nine-game losing streak, an 8-7 defeat that nearly was a come-from-way-back victory after they were down seven runs.
BUT THE STORY WAS ARROYO — probably the last chapter of the story. He admitted that when he left the mound Sunday he thought to himself, “This could be it. This could be. Yes, it could be.”
Arroyo, as always, was deadly honest after the game as he stood in front of his locker.
“When I throw my bullpens, I am in a significant amount of pain,” he said. “I’ve dealt with the same two arm issues (shoulder, elbow) for a long time now.”
Yes, he is pitching in pain. Yes, he thinks it could be over.
“I think it may be checkmate for me,” he added. “I thought it might be checkmate even before spring training. But I’ve been grinding like hell just to be where I am now, a miracle in itself.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ve been thinking about it,” he said, referring to the end of the line “I realize that even if you put that all aside, you have to be successful. You have to be able to put up enough quality starts for the club to want to keep you around.”
BOTH ARROYO AND MANAGER Bryan Price said they will talk tonight, probably on the flight to Tampa. Price, though, says he will not run Arroyo out there if he is not healthy. And Arroyo admits he has been running on cortisone most of the year and it is no longer working.
“That could be the last time I’m on the field, yeah,” Arroyo said. “That’s just the way it is. I was gone for nearly three years and you want your body to respond in a positive way. I was running down that road OK, but now I’m seeing it go the other way a little bit. There is only so much you can really do.”
SAID PRICE, “I M going to talk with Bronson and see how he is doing. He is not just challenged by his stuff, I think he has some physical challenges that we will address. We’re going to keep it in the dark right now, but we’ll talk to him about where he is at and how he is feeling. If he is having any physical issues, I wouldn’t put him back out there.”
Arroyo does have physical issues and admits it fully.
“I haven’t been feeling too hot and my shoulder is sliding downhill a bit,” he said. “My velo (velocity) is down. I’m trying to pitch as comfortably as I can and hit my spots. I’ve been getting hit around the yard for a while now and it is tough to perform when you feel you are running uphill and against the wind all the time.
“I hoped my arm would continue to get better as the year went on,” Arroyo added. “But it is like my arm is telling me, ‘Hey, man, I’m not going to run this race for you any more.’”
THE DODGERS TOOK ALL SIX games they played against the Reds this season and the Reds have lost 17 of the last 19 they’ve played against the Dodgers, including the last eight in a row.
The already overtaxed bullpen cannot endure the short starts Arroyo is providing and it is obvious his pitches looping plateward at 67 to 77 miles an hour are not getting out major league hitters at a passable rate.
The Reds have lost five of his last seven starts and in his last three starts he has given up 18 runs and 28 hits in 13 1/3 innings.
With Homer Bailey one good rehab start Monday in Louisville away from returning, and Brandon Finnegan not too far behind to coming off the disabled list, rotation spots have to be created and this one, unfortunately, Arroyo is a no-brainer.
MEANWHILE, ON THE OTHER side the Reds could do nothing against Maeda for three innings — nine up, nine down, three strikeouts.
Billy Hamilton broke the spell with a leadoff single in the fourth and the Reds filled the bases with one out. They scored one run when Scott Schebler was hit by a pitch, which pretty much says it all about their recent offensive exploits.
Eugenio Suarez lined hard to right field and Yasiel Puig made a shoe-top catch. Arismendy Alcantara, playing shortstop in place of Zack Cozart, hit a grounder to second, leaving the bases loaded.
A three-run, two-out home run by Justin Turner off left hander Wandy Peralta in the sixth inning pushed the Dodger lead to seven runs and pretty much closed the curtain. In the last seven series against the Dodgers the Reds are 0-6-1.
THE REDS, THOUGH, REFUSED to go away serenely.
Adam Duvall hit a solo home run in the sixth, Scooter ‘Babe Ruth’ Gennett clubbed a three-run home run in the seventh inning of LA relief pitcher Josh Fields to draw the Reds within three runs and Eugenio Suarez led the eighth with a home run off Pedro Baez and it was 8-6.
Arismendy Alcantara followed Suarez’s home run with a double. Tucker Barnhart lined to short, pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco grounded to short before Billy Hamilton poked a two-strike double to left to make it 8-7. Amazingly, Baez walked Gennett on four pitches, forcing him to face Joey Votto with a one-run lead, two on and two outs.
Votto drove a 2-and-1 pitch to deep left and Kike Hernandez made an incredible snag while crashing to the warning track dirt inches from the wall, saving two runs and the game.
LA closer Kenley Jansen finally turned off the tap in the ninth. He retired Adam Duvall on a foul pop, struck out Scott Schebler and struck out Eugenio Suarez for his 15th save.
All that seemed immaterial. It appears it is the end of a long road for one of the game’s all-time good guys.