Arroyo’s pitching limited by carpal tunnel flare-up

Published 2:13 am Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SARASOTA, Fla. — No guitar strumming for Bronson Arroyo these days. No autograph signing, either. Pitching? He’s still doing that, but the results weren’t good the last couple times out.

His right hand has become a worry.

The Cincinnati Reds’ musically inclined pitcher is having a flare-up of the carpal tunnel syndrome that has bothered him from time to time over the last few years. This bout is especially nasty, along with the timing. The season starts in less than one week.

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‘‘I don’t know what it’s from, man,’’ Arroyo said in an interview with The Associated Press. ‘‘I can’t write. I can’t do anything with my pointer finger and thumb without it being irritated. I had it back in ’04 in the playoffs (with Boston) pitching against the Yankees. I’ve had it for years.’’

So far, Arroyo has been able to overcome the problem, which bothers him much more when he holds a pen or a guitar pick. It returned last May and gave him problems for about three months. Arroyo finished 15-11 with a 4.77 ERA last season, when he was the only Reds pitcher who didn’t miss a start. He led the staff with 200 innings.

The right-hander can pitch with the problem. He’d rather not have to try.

Arroyo hasn’t done very well in his last two starts during spring training. He gave up 11 hits in five innings of a game against minor leaguers on March 24, and was pounded for 14 hits and 10 runs — three earned — in only 4 2-3 innings against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

The Rays took advantage of his inability to throw a breaking ball, something he passed off as just a bad day. There’s more to it, though.

Asked if the carpal tunnel bothers his hand when he’s pitching, Arroyo said, ‘‘Yeah. It’s almost like taking a 220 (volt) line of electricity and pinching it off and you’re only getting about two-thirds of it. You feel like you don’t have much power, and you don’t have much command. So I’ve got about another week to try to get it out of there. We’ll see.’’

The problem has forced him to make changes in his lifestyle.

Arroyo said it’s so difficult to squeeze a pen that he’s having teammates pay his bills for him. He has to turn down all autograph requests from fans at games — writing his name on a baseball or a piece of paper is too bothersome.

‘‘I’ve been having guys write stuff for me,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re paying my bills. I can’t write.’’

The biggest change involves his second love. Arroyo rarely goes a day without playing his guitar. He does numerous concerts in the offseason, playing lead guitar and singing in a band. On road trips, there’s usually a melody coming from his room.

Not lately. Holding a pick between his thumb and index finger aggravates the problem. For now, the music is on hold, something that is starting to exasperate him.

‘‘I can’t play at all,’’ he said, dropping his head and his tone of voice. ‘‘That’s it. It drives me crazy.’’

Besides putting the guitar away and letting someone else pay his bills, Arroyo has been wearing a brace when he’s away from the field as a reminder to take it easy with the hand. He’s taking anti-inflammatory drugs as well, hoping that makes the problem subside.

Most likely, he’s just going to have to deal with the problem, which causes more weakness than pain.

‘‘Nothing seemed to help last year except a little bit of rest,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not going to miss any starts. I’ve got four days in-between them each time.

‘‘I’m trying to get it out of there. It’s a weird feeling.’’