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Arroyo puts down guitar to help hand

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Bronson Arroyo is ready to give up the guitar again.

The Cincinnati Reds right-hander has carpal tunnel syndrome in his pitching hand. It got so bad during spring training last year that he had to wear a brace when he wasn’t pitching. He wasn’t allowed to write or play the guitar.

The weakness he felt in his hand started affecting his pitches, giving the Reds a huge scare heading into the season. The problem eased with cortisone shots and Arroyo got better as the season went along, finishing with a 2.07 ERA in his last 16 starts.

Then, he had to make a decision. He could have had surgery to try to fix the problem. Instead, he decided to stay with the same regimen. He limited his guitar playing in the offseason and will give it up again while he’s playing baseball, hoping that gets him through another season without an operation.

“The last 16 games of the season were just too good to take a chance,” Arroyo said Tuesday. “I didn’t want to come into camp being two-thirds ready because my hand got cut on and I wasn’t up to par.”

Music is Arroyo’s second passion — he began performing while playing with the Boston Red Sox and continued pursuing his career with the Reds. Strumming the guitar contributed to the carpal tunnel problems, which first cropped up when he was with the Red Sox.

So, strumming and writing have their limits for the next seven months.

“I can’t play the guitar or write too much, but that’s the way it goes,” he said. “This is my baseball season.”

Arroyo is encouraged by how his hand feels with spring training games about to begin. He’s hoping that any problems can be handled with medication.

“Worst-case scenario is that I get through the season with cortisone like I did last year,” he said.

Arroyo led the Reds in wins (15), starts (33), complete games (3) and shutouts (2) last season. He has led the team in starts each of his four seasons since coming over in a trade with Boston. He’s entering the final guaranteed year on his deal. Arroyo will make $11 million this season. His contract includes a club option for 2011 at $11 million, with a $2 million buyout.

Last year, the Reds were in contention in July until injuries drained the lineup and led to a free fall. Every position player except second baseman Brandon Phillips wound up with a disabling injury. The Reds kept the team intact, thinking it could stay in contention much longer if it stays healthy this season.

Arroyo is aware he could end up a free agent after the season.

“This might be the last chance to have a good opportunity with a lot of veteran guys around,” he said.