Reds' rotation way ahead of last year

The Associated Press Published:

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) -- Bronson Arroyo can run without having to bend over and cough. Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey are throwing with pain-free shoulders.

The Cincinnati Reds' rotation is far ahead of last spring heading into the start of exhibition games.

Manager Dusty Baker set his spring training pitching plans on Thursday without having to worry about some exotic ailment or shoulder stiffness forcing him to look at other options.

"There are a lot of games to play before we have to decide," Baker said. "I have a plan, but you have to have a plan B. You just hope you don't have to go to plan F."

Baker had to do that last spring, and it didn't work very well.

Arroyo was the team's most accomplished starter coming off its NL Central championship season in 2010. He got sick during spring training and lost a lot of weight. Doctors initially tested him for valley fever, a fungal infection found in desert regions of the Southwest.

He was eventually diagnosed with mononucleosis that bothered him well into one of his worst seasons. He went 9-12 with a 5.07 ERA in 32 starts and gave up a club-record 46 homers. The illness and weight loss took a toll on his fastball, which doesn't have any miles per hour to lose.

Arroyo has fully recovered from the ailment heading into the exhibition season.

"I'm going to pitch no matter what, but I definitely feel stronger than I did last year at this time," Arroyo said on Thursday. "The ball is coming out of my hand a lot better than it has the last two years. I will have five innings in by March 12. That will be a good little sample to see where my velocity is."

Cueto and Bailey developed shoulder problems last spring that landed them on the disabled list before opening day. Both are healthy this year, with Cueto already picked to be the opening day starter.

The rotation appears to be lined up with Cueto, newcomer Mat Latos and Arroyo followed by Bailey or Mike Leake. Baker said on Thursday that Leake will start the exhibition opener Saturday against Cleveland, with Bailey starting the following day.

Bailey had a career-high nine wins and 22 starts last season, when he went 9-7 with a 4.43 ERA around a pair of stints on the disabled list. He worked with a nutritionist and added 20 pounds in the offseason, hoping to build strength to help him get through the rigors of a long season.

"I would just eat, eat, eat," said Bailey, who increased his weight from 207 to 227. "I ate a lot of fruit, got the biggest steak I could find and a lot of vegetables."

The Reds hope the added bulk helps him stay healthy.

"We're in a better position than we've ever been in with Homer Bailey because he's obviously had trials and tribulations as far as health," Arroyo said. "Hopefully we can keep him healthy for an entire season."