By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — At the moment, 40-year-old Bronson Arroyo is at some reclusive place waiting for his old-school flip phone to ring.
The call will tell him to report to St. Louis so he can start Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, his first trudge up a major league mound in more than 2 1/2 years.
He isn’t on the 25-man roster at the moment, enabling the Reds to claim the youngest roster in Major League baseball at just over 26. But when Arroyo is added, that distinction will disappear as Bronson shoves the average age a couple of notches up the scale.
THAT, THOUGH IS OK WITH most. It is OK with the media, who feed voraciously at Arroyo’s quote trough. It is OK with the fans. It is OK with his teammates. And it is OK with the Reds.
Arroyo is a special guy, almost mythical in these parts.
Arroyo told the media he was going to pull off a major miracle and return to the Reds rotation after missing the last 2 1/2 years with an injury assortment that would stop a 26-year-old.
He was signed to a minor-league contract this winter by the Reds and told, “Prove it to us.” And prove it he did during spring training, the perfect duct tape and baling wire after the Reds lost Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani out of the rotation.
ARROYO PASSED HIS FINAL pre-season test Sunday in Arizona when he pitched in a simulated game, throwing to catcher Devin Mesoraco. He pitched the equivalent of six innings — 15 pitches, sit down, 15 pitches, sit down. That gave him 90 pitches and he had no eye-raising problems.
Now he is in hiding somewhere behind a sand dune awaiting his return to the majors.
“The report on Bronson was that everything he did was positive,” said Reds manager Bryan Price. “He hasn’t done anything to deter us from thinking he can make that start (Saturday).”
WHAT ARROYO CAN BRING to the Reds more than slow curves, slower curves and slowest curves that are located north, northwest, northeast, south, southwest and southeast. No speed is the same per batter, no location is the same per batter.
It is a knack he can share with the team’s stack of young, rookie, inexperienced players. And everybody knows it. Arroyo gives the rotation experience, consistency, stability and all those good things associated with pitching.
“The value of having any experienced pitcher is enormous and especially with Arroyo’s background,” said Price. “It is the reliability factor and the influence he has on those around him.”
WHEN ARROYO PITCHED FOR the Reds from 2006 through 2013, he never missed a start. Not once. Was never on the disabled list, never had a sore arm or so much as a hangnail. He pitched 200 or more innings in seven of his eight years in Cincinnati.
And while he was in the clubhouse, his locker stall was a gathering spot for pitchers, young and old, sitting at the master’s feet absorbing knowledge. It was like the old E.F. Hutton commercials, “When Arroyo talks, everybody listens.”
Said Price of his pitching staff, “We have some question marks, but I’m confident that the guys we have here are going to pitch well, do really well. And it is nice to have a mentor. Homer Bailey is not here. And as inexperienced as he is, I thought Anthony DeSclafani was doing a great job. And Dan Straily (traded) was bringing our pitching staff together, too.
“The impact of a guy like Bronson on a young staff pays dividends above and beyond his performance,” Price added.
But what can anybody expect from a 40-year-old egg-tosser who hasn’t thrown a pitch in anger in 2 1/2 years? Is there less predictability?
“Sure, but to this point he has had zero issues with his arm,” said Price. “Every bullpen he has felt great. So who knows? Nobody knows that answer, especially with him losing so many innings the last three years.”
Price smiled, though, and after a pregnant pause, said, “However, you can also look at it this way — he has had 2 1/2 years without pitching. I hate to call it rest the way he has been grinding on his elbow and shoulder to get strong and become pain-free, but it is not an arm that has had a ton of innings piled on it the last few years.”
PRICE, OF COURSE, TAKES the optimistic trail, the high road, for his Arroyo aspirations.
“It is with optimism that I see him coming to our team and being able to handle the work load that I can be handing him,” said Price.
All the talk subsides Saturday, all the optimism will be fortified or destroyed when Arroyo takes the Busch Stadium mound and does it or doesn’t do it.