Bronson Arroyo entered Nationals camp at 38-years-old, over a year-and-a-half removed from Tommy John surgery, hoping to take one last shot at extending his long and eventful MLB career. But a torn labrum in his right shoulder may have brought that comeback bid to a quick and crushing end.
Arroyo was set to make his third start of spring training for the Nationals on Wednesday before becoming a late scratch due to shoulder soreness. Now, as Peter Gammons of MLB Network first reported, it has been revealed Arroyo has an 80 percent tear of his labrum. Arroyo, a 15-year veteran, is almost certainly done as a professional baseball player.
This news comes after Arroyo impressed in his second spring outing. He tossed three perfect innings against the Houston Astros last Thursday. It was an encouraging step for the right-hander, who had not pitched in an MLB or minor league game since June 15, 2014.
Arroyo entered camp with plenty of unknowns. There was no roster spot guaranteed, and certainly no role set in stone.
"This is the first time I’ve been in this position in 12 or 15 years," Arroyo told CSN in February. "You’re used to coming into a ballclub where you’re cemented into that rotation and you’re on a guaranteed contract in spring training. Then it’s kind of easy breezy. It’s kind of full circle. You battle when you’re a 20-year-old kid against some of the older guys and now I am that older guy who’s battling against the young kids."
Arroyo also didn't know if he could still handle the physical grind of pitching.
"I really don’t know if my arm is going to handle the pounding of throwing here every day in these games and that’s what I’m here to do and see if it works out," he said.
If Arroyo is indeed done, it doesn't change much for the Nationals. They already had a full rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez leading the way. Joe Ross and Tanner Roark - who has been a standout this spring - look like locks for the rotation.
Arroyo's injury does, however, rob them of some experienced depth. It was unclear if Arroyo would accept a trip to the minors, but the potential was there for him as a veteran sixth starter.
If an injury occurs to one of their main starters, they will now likely turn to a relatively unproven commodity. That could be A.J. Cole, Taylor Jordan or top prospect Lucas Giolito. Perhaps the Arroyo news will convince the Nationals to change their thoughts on someone like Blake Treinen, whom Dusty Baker said is being prepared as a reliever in recent comments to reporters.
The Nationals should be fine if Arroyo can't come back from the injury, but it would be an unfortunate end for his career. Arroyo has pitched 15 MLB seasons, five MLB postseasons, won a World Series and a Gold Glove. He played for the Pirates, Red Sox, Reds and Diamondbacks.
It's a tough end, but then again, that's a full MLB career and one he should be proud of.