CINCINNATI -- Bronson Arroyo is realistic. After the Reds' Thursday night loss to to the Brewers, he didn't sound like he would give himself as many chances as his manager Bryan Price would.
Price made it clear Arroyo is still in the rotation after a second bad outing -- this one a 5-1 loss that snapped the Reds' four-game winning streak.
"I know that Bryan isn't discouraged just yet," Arroyo said. "Baseball is a game -- every sport at this level -- you're getting paid to produce. It's got to get a little bit better a little quicker."
"If the next two times out, I don't see something a little bit crisper and be able to keep us in the ball game, then maybe you're at a dead-end street," Arroyo said.
Again, Price is not ready to pull Arroyo based on two starts.
"I think if it was anybody with two queasy starts -- whether a rookie or whoever else ... you have to give them some room," Price said. "With Bronson, he's coming off 2 1/2 years of baseball inactivity as far as competing. I think that deserves the right for him to have starts under his belt to see what he's got left."
Arroyo has given up two home runs and had a four-run inning in both his starts. That, he says, is a result of not having an out pitch, which is a result of his velocity being down.
"When nobody's on base, you feel like you can go out there and do your thing," Arroyo said. "When you get two guys on and you only have one out and you have to punch a guy out to get out of the inning and you can't do it, then you've got some troubles on your hands."
It's never been about velocity for Arroyo. He got by with location, varying arm angles and a five-pitch repertoire.
In his best year -- 2004 -- his fastball averaged 89 mph. He went 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA in 2013 when his heater averaged a not-so-hot 87.2. It was down to 85.4 the next year, and he still went 7-4 with a 4.08 ERA.
But apparently you can only go so low. Arroyo averaged 83.1 on his fastball in his first start. The final compilations aren't in for Thursday's start, but the guess here is he didn't break 84.
"I've got less room for error," he said. "My velo is not as good as it used to be. It's not easy in the big leagues any time. I feel like I don't have enough to finish guys. I can get into counts where I want to, setting them up. I can throw strikes and keep guys off the bases from walking and keep my pitch count down."
Arroyo allowed the five runs on seven hits. The damage could have been considerably worse. Billy Hamilton made a two sensational catches, and Eugenio Suarez saved a run with a stab of a rocket.
It's hard not to root for Arroyo. He's always been a Reds fan favorite. He helped end the long losing-season streak. His comeback story -- battling back from elbow and shoulder surgery at 40 -- is a compelling one.
Arroyo says he's not discouraged, just unsure of where goes from here.
"It's only two times out," he said. "I haven't been on the mound in three years. To be honest with you, it's completely uncharted territory. I could stay like this the rest of the year or I could continue to get stronger. I felt a little better than last time. I'm hoping it keeps progressing in that direction."
Arroyo has gone 10 innings and allowed 10 runs on 12 hits, four of which were home runs, in his two outings. Price doesn't think the problem is velocity but he also thinks Arroyo will increase his velo.
"It's the crispness of his pitches," Price said. "The tightness on his breaking ball and his change-up have to continue to grow, not the velocity. He pitched in these brackets in 2011. That wasn't his best year. He pitched better with lesser stuff in Arizona before he got hurt. He was throwing 80, 82."
"My anticipation is velocity will grow, along with crispness."
Arroyo retired the first six batters Thursday. The luck ran out in the third.
Manny Pina and Orlando Arcia went the opposite way with singles to right to start the inning. Pitcher Jimmy Nelson sacrificed them over. Jonathan Villar got in Pina with a groundout.
Eric Thames lined one into right to make it 2-1. Then Ryan Braun launched one to left and it was 4-1. It was Braun's fifth career homer off Arroyo.
Arroyo pitched a scoreless fourth.
But he gave up a two-out home run to Thames in the fifth, and it was 5-1.
"Right now, they're having to put the ball in play all the time for me to get outs," Arroyo said. "Strikeouts don't mean a whole lot, but when you want to get one, it would be nice to reach back and have a pitch that feels crisp enough to put guys away. Right now, that's a bit of a problem."