I was always under the impression that the starting pitcher on Opening Day was the best pitcher on the staff.
That was until last season, when Dusty Baker gave the ball to Aaron Harang for a record-tying fifth consecutive season.
That is a stiff indictment against a pitching staff. Something must be wrong for a man to start Game 1 in back-to-back seasons while winning only six games the previous year.
Arroyo is so mellow and type-B that it was not a big deal to him.
This season, Baker announced (seemingly from day one of spring training) that his opener would be Edinson Volquez—yes, that Volquez. The Tommy John surgery undergoing, steroid-taking, flat-billed hat-wearing, Josh Hamilton-traded-for, Dominican Republic-born enigma with back-to-back four-win seasons.
So, how does he rate the big honor? I suppose he is still basking in the glory of his freshman year with the Reds when he made the All-Star team and was 17-6.
Arroyo has been one of the best work-horses in MLB since coming to Cincinnati in a trade for Willy Mo Pena in 2006.
Since then, he has pitched more innings than anyone in the National League and is fourth overall. The only ones with more innings are Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia and Dan Haren.
Nobody else has started more games than he has during that period.
I don’t recall him missing any starts since joining the Reds.
In 2010, he finished fourth in the NL in wins with 17. It is hard to see how anyone could find Volquez deserving of an Opening Day shot over Arroyo.
The last time he was seen in live baseball, he was being rocked by the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the first round of the NL playoffs. In less than two innings, he faced 11 batters and left the game with an ERA over 21, and of course was tagged with the loss.
Why didn’t Baker start southpaw Travis Wood that game? He nearly threw a perfect game at those same Phillies last year.
There is nothing magical about starting on Opening Day, but it should at least be an honorarium for work done the previous season.
Again, Arroyo let it roll off like water on a duck’s back. He said it was fine with him as he enjoys watching the opening game from the dugout.
Baker’s justification for the nod to Volquez is, “You want to go hard, soft, hard. You want to break up Cueto and Volquez so they don’t go out and out-radar gun each other.”
Nothing wrong with that logic, but what is wrong with soft, hard, soft, hard? A rotation of Arroyo, Volquez, Leake, Cueto and Wood could accomplish the same mission.
It seems weird seeing the words “radar gun” without Aroldis Chapman’s name mentioned.