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Rededicated Arroyo rewarded with Game 2 start

Rededicated Arroyo rewarded with Game 2 start

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Rededicated Arroyo rewarded with Game 2 start
SAN FRANCISCO -- Bronson Arroyo is hoping that less is more when he takes the mound for Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Sunday night against the Giants (9:30 ET on TBS).

Less offseason travel.

Fewer distractions.

More focus.

Reds vs. Giants

For a player known as much for having fun off the field as for his work on it, Arroyo's decision to eliminate the usual trips to Latin America, the rock concerts and everything else unrelated to baseball was significant.

"I wanted to be able to stand on this field at 35, like I am, and have an organization be confident in giving me the ball for Game 2," Arroyo said. "Last year, I really wanted to stay focused. I had been traveling for a long time, and still having success pitching, but last season I was sick for a lot of the year, my back was bothering me for a lot of the year, my velocity was down a little bit.

Tale of the Tape: Game 2
2012 Regular Season
Overall: 32 GS, 12-10, 3.74 ERA, 35 BB, 129 K's
Overall: 32 GS, 16-11, 3.37 ERA, 49 BB, 191 K's
Key stat: Has no record in 11 playoff appearances, including three starts, with a 6.04 ERA
Key stat: Went 2-0 in four games (three starts) in 2010, with a 2.18 ERA in 20 2/3 innings
At AT&T Park
2012: 1 GS, 0-0, 3.00 ERA
Career: 6 GS, 0-4, 4.11 ERA
2012: 15 GS, 10-3, 2.38 ERA
Career: 41 GS, 19-12, 3.08 ERA
Against this opponent
2012: 2 GS, 0-0, 2.45 ERA
Career: 11 GS, 3-5, 3.13 ERA
2012: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA
Career: 4 GS, 1-2, 5.16 ERA
Loves to face: Angel Pagan, 5-for-23
Hates to face: Hunter Pence, 12-for-35, 2 HR
Loves to face: Ryan Ludwick, 1-for-16
Hates to face: Brandon Phillips, 3-for-7, 1 RBI
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Was solid in both outings vs. Giants this season despite receiving no-decisions
Why he'll win: Dominated the Reds in a one-hitter earlier this season at AT&T Park
Pitcher beware: Has struggled at AT&T Park, being winless in six career starts
Pitcher beware: Allowed four or more runs in five of his last seven starts
Bottom line: Pick up first win in postseason and at AT&T Park
Bottom line: Pitch like he did as a rookie in the 2010 postseason

"I wanted to see if I could bring some more velocity back. I wanted to know what I had in my body if I went 100 percent, not just with the physical [workouts], because I had always done that, but even just to stay mentally focused here on the game instead of being off in the Bahamas, even though I could work out in all those places.

"There's a big difference between playing catch at Fenway Park in the snow and going to play a rock concert afterwards, and just being at home every day. I wanted to give home a try."

Home is in the Tampa area, where the previously nomadic Arroyo stayed put and focused all winter on his offseason workouts. The payoff was a 2012 regular season in which he made all of his starts (32), logged 202 innings and posted his best ERA (3.74) in six years, since his debut season in Cincinnati.

Arroyo also surrendered 20 fewer home runs than in 2011, when he led the Majors by serving up 46 long balls.

The illness that dogged him throughout 2011, eventually diagnosed as mono, stayed away. So did the back and hip issues that had bothered Arroyo before.

This is not to question Arroyo's work ethic in past years. He has been known as a notoriously hard worker and a health nut since he was 5 or 6 years old, eating protein bars when other kids ate Snickers. When he traveled throughout the winter, often to Latin American countries, or to visit friends around the U.S., Arroyo traveled with two baseball gloves and a bag of balls.

But the singular focus on preparing for 2012 made a difference, he said.

"Definitely," he said. "Last year, I was a little weaker, a little more sickly. By the end I felt pretty decent, but this year I've felt stronger from front to back. Really, I haven't had any large lulls in the season. That's been nice."

He will pitch with the Reds leading the best-of-five series after a 5-2 victory in Game 1 on Saturday night, opposite Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who worked a one-hit shutout against the Reds in June. Arroyo pitched three days later, allowing two Giants runs in six innings and taking a no-decision.

In his career against San Francisco, Arroyo is 3-5 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 starts and one relief appearance. He is 0-4 with a 4.11 ERA in six starts at AT&T Park, but he got the nod in Game 2 because Reds manager Dusty Baker figured the spacious dimensions better suit Arroyo's fly-ball style.

Arroyo described the difference in venues like this:

"It's a world of difference," he said. "We talk about it all the time, different ballparks, but these basically two are about as far apart in the game as you can get. Here ... it plays big everywhere, and our ballpark plays tiny everywhere. So it's a huge advantage for our starting staff, and theirs as well, to be able to pound the strike zone a little more."

The general theory is that power pitchers dominate the postseason.

Would Arroyo like to shoot that theory down?

"I would love to shoot it down on Sunday evening," he said.

But he does buy the thinking.

"Power pitchers in general have a little bit more room for error anywhere in the year," Arroyo said. "If I could reach back and get 96 [mph], I would definitely be able to throw the ball in the middle of the plate a lot more."

Power pitchers can overcome their postseason jitters by "just getting the ball and ripping it down the middle," Arroyo said.

"I can't do that," he said. "So you do what you can do."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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