Arroyo triumphant in memorable debut

Arroyo triumphant in memorable debut

CINCINNATI -- When they traded for him late last month, the Reds hoped Bronson Arroyo would be a boost for their rotation.

They never expected him to help their lineup, too.

It would be tough to top the kind of home debut Arroyo enjoyed during Wednesday's 8-6 win over the Cubs that split the two-game series. Not only did the right-hander throw a solid 6 2/3 innings, he homered in his first at-bat. Later in the afternoon, he also executed a perfect sacrifice bunt and drew a walk.

"If you had [asked] me before the game, 'Would [you] take that?' Of course," Arroyo said. "I would take it 50 times over."

Arroyo (1-0), who was charged with five runs, three earned, on six hits, almost immediately fell into a 2-0 hole on Aramis Ramirez's two-run, two-out homer in the first inning that traveled 417 feet to left field.

It was a 2-1 game in the third when Arroyo became his own personal equalizer. Getting an 0-2 fastball from lefty Glendon Rusch (0-1), Arroyo launched a game-tying leadoff homer into the left-field seats. It was the first homer of his career and his first hit since Oct. 2, 2001, against the Mets as a member of the Pirates.

Who was more surprised -- Arroyo as he trotted around the bases, or his teammates in the home dugout?

"He hit it and kind of looked like he knew what he was doing," left fielder Adam Dunn said.

A member of the American League's Red Sox the past three seasons, which included a 2004 World Series title, Arroyo rarely picked up a bat, except for the occasional Interleague games.

"I hadn't hit one since high school," Arroyo said. "Guys were laughing because I guess I kind of walked it off a little or something. I didn't run hard. I knew I hit it out of the park, but I wasn't especially trying to jog around the bases. I was in another world after hitting it."

Several Reds offered the conventional high-fives when he returned. Someone who knows about home runs -- Ken Griffey Jr. -- offered a bow from the top step of the dugout.


"I hadn't hit one since high school. Guys were laughing because I guess I kind of walked it off a little or something ... I was in another world after hitting it."
-- Bronson Arroyo

"For a guy that doesn't get a chance to hit a lot, he helped himself out, and it was a little boost for us," said Griffey, who added his own special homer in the fifth inning. It was his 537th career blast, which passed Mickey Mantle and placed the center fielder all alone in 12th place on the all-time homers list.

"We were teasing him about having a double ear-flapped helmet," Griffey continued. "It worked for him. If he keeps swinging like that and putting down the bunt like he did, you'll see all of us with double ear-flapped helmets on."

Back on the mound, Arroyo retired 13 of 14 batters after the Ramirez homer -- including a stretch of 10 in a row. While not walking a batter and striking out seven, the 29-year-old displayed particular command of his breaking pitches, and he kept the game moving.

Of the 26 batters he faced, Arroyo threw 21 first-pitch strikes.

"He throws strikes and quality strikes," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He's not going to just give you cookies to hit. He's going to make good pitches. When he does that, he has a chance to have some quick innings."

"He's going to throw a lot of strikes, and you know they'll usually put the ball in play," Dunn said. "It's fun to play behind a guy that works quick like that."

Cincinnati was ahead, 7-2, in the sixth when Arroyo's chance to win was jeopardized. With one out, catcher David Ross dropped Derrek Lee's routine foul pop for an error. Two Arroyo pitches later, Lee capitalized and launched a two-run homer to left field. With two outs in the seventh, Kent Mercker surrendered John Mabry's pinch-hit two-run homer that cut the lead to one.

Ryan Freel manufactured an insurance run with one out in the eighth, stealing second base and advancing to third on a throwing error. When Felipe Lopez grounded out to shortstop with the infield playing in, Freel alertly hustled and beat a throw home with a head-first slide. David Weathers pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his first save and locked up Arroyo's first win as a Red.

Arroyo knew that pitchers' numbers have a tendency to bloat inside homer-happy Great American Ball Park, but he wasn't too concerned.

"I know the ballpark plays small," said Arroyo, who received a standing ovation from 27,287 fans as he walked off the field. "All you can do is pitch your game. If guys get the ball up in the air and it goes out of the park, it's not going to change my style of pitching."

At the time of the March 20 deal that sent slugging project Wily Mo Pena to the Red Sox, Arroyo was destined to be in Boston's bullpen to start the season. But he was slotted into the No. 2 spot of Cincinnati's starting five and added a little more credibility to a rotation that ranked last in the National League in ERA last season.

"He's a proven competitor and winner," said infielder Rich Aurilia, who was 2-for-4 with three RBIs, including a third-inning two-run homer that put the Reds ahead. "He kind of fell into the backdrop [in Boston]. I know he won 14 games last year. I know the year before he was a good part of their rotation in the playoffs and won some big games.

"I think it's a trade that will help both clubs. But I know the day the trade was made, our clubhouse was ecstatic," Narron said. "Our guys were excited about having another starter coming here with the stuff that Bronson has."

That excitement was elevated an extra notch or two on Wednesday.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.