Mailbag: Concern over Arroyo's health?

Mailbag: Red flag raised over Arroyo's innings?

Is there any concern about Bronson Arroyo's health after pitching a Major League-leading 240 2/3 innings last year?
-- Saurin, M., North Wales, Penn.

There was a time in this game, mostly before pitch counts and specialized relievers, when starting pitchers often approached or exceeded 300 innings in a season.

Boy, do I sound old when I spout off stuff like that.

Management always has a concern for any pitcher that carries that kind of workload, but there are some reasons for the Reds to be less worried here. Arroyo isn't a power pitcher that heaves one fastball after another. He throws a lot of offspeed pitches. The right-hander is also efficient with his pitches. He goes after hitters, throws strikes and rarely runs his pitch count up by falling behind in counts.

Arroyo even pitched a few innings after the season on the Major League exhibition tour of Japan, with approval from the club.

I read an article shortly after last summer's Felipe Lopez-Austin Kearns-Bill Bray-Gary Majewski deal that said the Reds were grooming Bray for the closer role. Is there any truth in this?
-- Ben W., Columbus, Ohio

I don't think they're grooming Bray to be the closer at this point, but the Reds front office has said it believed he might have closer's potential down the road. The lefty is only 23 years old, so there's still plenty of time. During the Winter Meetings, manager Jerry Narron indicated Bray could be in the mix for the ninth-inning-by-committee situation. Right now, David Weathers and Mike Stanton seem to be at the front of the line.

I had read that Matt Belisle was going to play in a winter league to get stretched out so he could potentially start in 2007. How has he been doing? Also, can you provide some sort of a scouting report for Bobby Livingston or why they are interested in him?
-- Ted A., Cincinnati

Belisle is pitching in Puerto Rico this winter and the last glance at his stats looked pretty decent. He was 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA with 32 innings pitched over eight games. Of course, that doesn't fully indicate how he's throwing, but he still appears to be in the fifth-starter mix. As for Livingston, he is a control pitcher that I heard might draw some comparisons to Jamie Moyer. Reds scouts liked him because of his ability to consistently throw strikes. I guess we'll see for sure in camp.

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Chris Denorfia posted respectable numbers despite being shuttled around all last season. Will he be given a shot to be an everyday player? Also, what's the outlook on Norris Hopper?
-- Ethan P., Sardis, Ohio

If Denorfia does not end up as an everyday player, he could certainly be a guy that plays a lot in Narron's frequently tweaked lineups. He has the ability to play all three outfield spots, which helps. With right field currently not firmed up, Denorfia, Hopper, Ryan Freel, Jeff Conine, Bubba Crosby, Josh Hamilton and possibly Ken Griffey Jr. could all be potential choices. Hopper, a possible late bloomer who impressed when getting a chance late last season, is definitely in the hunt for a reserve outfielder's job. See the previous sentence for who he must battle against to get a roster spot.

What ever happened to Tuffy Rhodes? I heard he did really well in spring ball last year, but I hadn't heard anything about him since. Is he going to be at Spring Training this year?
-- Nathan D., Newport, Ky.

No sir. Rhodes was a clubhouse favorite last spring, but he was cut from camp and at the time and said he was retiring. If he's changed his mind since then, I have not heard.

Jerry Gil, who was said to have run out of Minor League options with the D-backs, was picked up on Oct. 13. What does it mean to run out of Minor League options? Does that factor into his options with the Reds?
-- Craig S., Calgary, Alberta

Most players on 40-man rosters have three Minor League options. One option can be used per year, as many times as an organization wishes. If a player is out of options, it means the club has to designate him for assignment and expose him to the waiver wire before he can be sent down. That's how the Reds plucked Gil from Arizona. He's still out of options in Cincinnati, but if the club likes him this spring but aren't sure about keeping him on the final 25-man roster, the risk of exposing him to waivers could figure in the decision making.

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