Arroyo: Mental approach is key
By Marc Lancaster / Post staff reporter
Bronson Arroyo has made two starts each against the Cubs, Cardinals and Nationals, and his second appearance against each team has been better than the first.
What does that tell Reds manager Jerry Narron?
"That the experts that said the second time around (he'd get hit) aren't as expert as they think they are," said Narron. "Those people that were saying he's just a fluke."
Though the Reds blew what should have been Arroyo's sixth victory in eight starts Thursday night, the right-hander's ERA edged down to 2.03 and he continues to impress with his feel for pitching.
There obviously is more than a little physical skill involved, but Arroyo talked Friday about how important the mental approach is to his success.
"Without that, I feel like I would never be in the big leagues," Arroyo said. "That's why it's hard for me to say how I would approach a hitter one specific night, because a lot of guys change in the middle of a game."
Arroyo does the same, though his work begins well before he gets to the mound. Before facing the Nationals on Thursday, for instance, Arroyo watched the tape of his previous outing against Washington. The point was not to repeat whatever had been successful the last time, he said, but to see what adjustments the hitters might make based on what had happened before.
"I'm looking to see how I got them out to see, if they watch the tape, what they might feel like I'm doing," said Arroyo. "I'm trying to put myself in their mind and say, 'OK, I'm Nick Johnson and Bronson got me out with sinkers all three times, so he's going to try to get me out with sinkers this time,' then I try to change my game plan enough during the game to at least be able to get him out a different way once or twice, so that maybe in a key situation I can go back to that sinker."
The key, said Arroyo, is figuring out which hitters tend to analyze pitchers that way, as opposed to just walking up to the plate and hacking. Get the wrong read and you might think yourself into a corner.
"You're literally looking at the hitter as he's swinging at your pitches," said Arroyo, "and you're trying to rate his face and if he's thinking or if he's not and he's just like a robot up there swinging at your stuff."
It's an ever-evolving process, but one Arroyo seems to enjoy. His skill in that particular part of the game is a significant part of the reason Narron feels so confident that Arroyo will be able to sustain his early success.
"If he stays healthy, he's going to do well over 30-something starts," said Narron. "There is no concern about that."