The Bradford Files
The former Red Sox pitcher, who contributed to Boston's agonizing season by finishing 2006 as the major league leader for most innings pitched (2402/3) with his new team in Cincinnati, wanted to make sure his achievements hadn't gone unnoticed in the Sox clubhouse.
So in the midst of the last week of the season, Arroyo sent an overnight package to his former teammate Curt Schilling. In the envelope was a reminder that his former teammate might have underestimated what the guitar-playing, right-handed hurler could offer a big league pitching staff.
"(Schilling) said a couple of years ago I would never pitch 230 innings with this body," Arroyo said. "So I sent him a note with a picture of me standing with nothing on but a (sock)."
In the accompanying message, Arroyo joked to Schilling something to the effect that to throw 230 innings it wasn't how big a body you had, but rather how much intestinal fortitude one had.
The delivery was - as Arroyo is quick to point out - sent in good-natured fun to one of the many Red Sox players he continues to respect and admire. But in the bigger picture (besides that of Arroyo in his birthday suit), he wanted to send the message of what kind of player he developed into this season.
Arroyo, who the Red Sox traded just before the start of the beginning of the '06 season for outfielder Wily Mo Pena, has become something many in Boston never thought he could be - a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
"(Red Sox general manager) Theo (Epstein) called me before the All-Star game to congratulate me (on making the National League team). He was joking around about how he couldn't go anywhere in the city without somebody yelling at him about trading me," said Arroyo, while driving from Cincinnati to his offseason home in Florida.
"Over time, you earn your respect. I've always been a guy who has been borderline, 'Is he a starter or a bullpen guy?' But now I think I've shown I can be a No. 3 on any team in baseball. So now I've gotten over that hump. Now I have to prove that I can be a guy who can do it two, three, five or 10 years in a row."
The ironic part of Arroyo's journey this season is that despite his initial hesitancy about leaving Boston, especially after signing a three-year, $11.25 million deal in February, it seems to have all worked out for the best for the 29-year-old.
He not only finished the season with a 14-11 mark and a 3.29 ERA (fourth best in the NL), but Arroyo got to once again pitch in a pennant race, and doing so this time as his team's ace.
"The thing I always didn't understand about the trade was why would you trade away a young, 200-inning arm," Arroyo said. "Even if Wily Mo hits 40 home runs, I think with what's going on in baseball as far as getting rid of steroids and stuff, it's becoming harder for people to pitch 200 innings and stay healthy year after year. I can see pitchers becoming more of a commodity than they were five or six years ago."
So, does he regret inking the deal with the Red Sox?
"Not in a million years," Arroyo continued. "I did what was right for me, and that was staying in Boston, secure myself, and not feel the pressure of pitching for a contract. I don't regret in any way.
"I was disappointed with the move, but it is probably going to help me out in the long run, because I'm coming over to (Cincinnati) with a little more responsibility, showing I didn't need the Boston Red Sox lineup to stay out there and win ballgames. In the end, as a free agent, I have become worth more than if I stayed in Boston and pitched out of the pen."
That said, Arroyo's intentions for his next deal haven't wavered since spring training. His goal is to build up his reputation and ink an even heftier contract - with the Boston Red Sox.
There is a reason, after all, he is keeping his Boston home until his contract runs out two years from now.
"I still miss playing in that uniform, especially when I turn on the TV and they are 10 games out of first place and there is still a crowd that is maybe more enthusiastic than any crowd in the game," Arroyo said. "You never know what's going to happen in the next couple years."
Player no longer waiting to be named
Everybody seemed to know that Adam Stern was going to be traded to the Baltimore Orioles at season's end ... except Adam Stern.
"I hadn't heard anything," said Stern from his brother's home in London, Ontario, a day after officially being dealt from the Sox to the Orioles in the trade involving catcher Javy Lopez. "It was a little bit strange because nobody could say anything officially. Everyone else knew before I did.
"It was a little frustrating playing in the middle of a season but knowing you're probably going elsewhere at the end of the year. But I guess it was no big deal."
It has been a crazy couple of years for the 26-year-old. First, Stern had 15 major league at-bats with the Red Sox in 2005, a season he was forced to remain on the big league roster after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. Then he made a name for himself during this year's spring training, driving in four runs while notching an inside-the-park home run, leading Canada to an 8-6 win over the United States in the biggest upset in the World Baseball Classic.
Stern ultimately fulfilled his Rule 5 obligations by remaining on the Red Sox roster for the first 18 days of the '06 season, then headed for Triple-A Pawtucket for the remainder of the season. With the PawSox, he hit .258 with eight home runs and 23 stolen bases.
"I felt like my season was a struggle the whole year," he said. "I never got in a groove. At times, I felt lost. In 2005, I didn't get a lot of at-bats, and then I come out and play every day. I had a hard time finding a groove."
On Aug. 4, it was determined that Stern's consistency would have to be discovered in the Baltimore organization, with Boston shipping him to the O's for Lopez. The problem was that the outfielder didn't pass through waivers because Tampa Bay staked a claim on him as payback for what it perceived as Boston's tampering of infielder Julio Lugo during the non-waiver trade deadline.
So the Red Sox and Stern had to wait.
"I'm thinking of writing a book on Rule 5 and waiver claims," Stern joked. "It's been fun, and I obviously wouldn't take it back for anything."
You know Stern is officially out of the Red Sox organization when hearing his pick for American League MVP. Hint: It's not David Ortiz.
"I'm voting for (Justin Morneau)," said Stern, giving the nod to his former teammate on the Canadian national team. "There's a lot guys who deserve it, but Morneau is everything you could ask of an MVP."
The future in Florida
Good news for those trying to forget last season and focus on the future.
Daniel Bard, one of the Red Sox's two first-round picks in this year's draft, is opening eyes in the Instructional League. Boston scouting director Jason McLeod reports that after two, one-inning appearances, Bard's velocity has separated him from the pack.
"He's been sitting on 98 mph, and touching 100, but doing it with ease," McLeod said. "I don't know what he'll end up being in the end, but you rarely see a guy throwing in the high 90's as easy as he does."
Bard, who came out of the University of North Carolina after his junior year, doesn't figure to take quite as fast a track to the majors as Craig Hansen, another collegiate draftee. Considering Bard didn't sign until August and hasn't pitched in a professional game, the Red Sox will take it slow while trying to mold him into a top-of-the-rotation starter.
McLeod also let slip another interesting piece of information - he once fell victim to the Junior Seau torture chamber on the basketball court while playing high school hoop in Southern California.
"Their team, Oceanside, crushed our team, Vista," said McLeod, remembering Seau, who earned both the title of California Defensive Player of the Year for football and San Diego County Player of the Year for basketball. "He threw down a jam, and, no, I did not get posterized. He was, and continues to be, a tremendous athlete."
The Papelbon effect
Baltimore pitching coach Leo Mazzone looked across the Fenway Park diamond recently and relayed his thoughts regarding Boston's conundrum with closer-turned-starter Jonathan Papelbon.
"The only goal he should have is to make all of his starts," said the longtime Atlanta Braves pitching guru.
Mazzone has some experience watching a pitcher's transformation from reliever to starter, having gone through the process with John Smoltz. He hesitates comparing Papelbon to Smoltz, who went from starter to closer back to starter because of the strains each job was putting on the pitcher's elbow. Mazzone does, however, understand why the Sox are putting Papelbon in the rotation.
"It's harder physically to be a reliever than a starter," Mazzone said. "You have your routine all the way through - your game, your side work, your game, your side work. It's more structured. I think they know what they're doing."