By BRANT JAMES
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000
The big-league education of Bronson Arroyo continues.
Five starts and three losses into his major league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Hernando High alum awaits his first win. He's also learning to balance the amazement of being in the bigs with trying to pitch well enough to stay there.
"This is everything I've dreamed of, playing in the majors," he said. "The best part is showing up to the park everyday and seeing your name on a uniform in the locker.
"And all these different ballparks I've seen on TV over the years. The other night I had to think I was about to pitch on the same mound (at Dodger Stadium) where Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax pitched. For now it's kind of overwhelming."
That all has to change at the first pitch, he said.
"Once the game gets going, it's a lot different," he said. "It's business-as-usual, like at Triple-A.
"Once they start getting base hits, forget it. I have to try and forget Gary Sheffield is at the plate and try to get him out."
Arroyo, who is 0-3 with an 8.75 ERA, allowed seven hits, two walks and four earned runs in a 9-6 loss to the Dodgers on Monday.
"He looked to have better control with his fastball," Pirates manager Gene Lamont told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "His curveball looked a little sharper. And he pitched down better later in the game. Early in the game, not as well."
There was concern Monday that Arroyo might have injured himself in the sixth inning. He was removed after a visit by Lamont and trainer Kent Biggerstaff, but not because he was hurt, Bronson said.
"I get this little tweak in my neck. I get it all the time," Arroyo said. "I called (catcher Jason) Kendall out and said to give me a second. He doesn't know me as good as they do in Triple-A so he so he wasn't sure if I was OK."
Arroyo averaged more than seven innings a start at Triple-A Nashville, but has lasted as long as 5 2/3innings just once with the Pirates. A problem has been bloated pitch-counts, which he traces to more wily hitters.
"The hitters are more patient," he said. "Here they don't mind hitting with two strikes. They stay back on the fastball and adjust to the off-speed stuff and make you work a little bit."
Arroyo's spot on the Pittsburgh roster depends greatly on the health of starting pitcher Francisco Cordova. The right-hander, on the disabled list with a small bone spur behind his right elbow, was scheduled to receive a cortisone shot on Wednesday and attempt to throw this weekend. He could be activated in a week if deemed sound, which would give the Pirates one too many starters.
"All I know is I'm scheduled to go in five days, on Saturday," Arroyo said. He is scheduled to start against Philadelphia at Veterans Stadium.
The start will also give him a chance at another elusive big-league first: a base hit. A .294 hitter at Nashville, Arroyo is 0-for-8 with five strikeouts.