Arroyo admits career could be over due to rotator cuff tear

VIERA, Fla. - Bronson Arroyo says his rotator cuff is "significantly torn" and though he'll wait a few days for doctors to compare the latest MRI of his shoulder with one from 2014, the 39-year-old right-hander admits he may be forced into retirement.

"We'll see if it might be something we could calm down and maybe try to rehab, but it's probably going to be a long shot at this point," Arroyo said this afternoon. "We're just going to take a couple days to really look at it, let them analyze between the two comparisons and see if it's the end of the game for me or not."

Arroyo said his shoulder has not been 100 percent since he had a previously unreported surgery to repair a small tear of the rotator cuff in 2014, but the pain wasn't severe enough to warrant a doctor's exam until this week. Though he retired all nine Astros batters he faced Thursday night at Space Coast Stadium, he said the shoulder pain became too much to ignore anymore.

Arroyo already was trying to come back from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, a procedure that kept him from pitching in the big leagues the last year and a half.

Bronson-Arroyo-Arizona-sidebar.jpg"I mean, there would be days where I felt pretty good," he said. "But it was one of those things where I couldn't tell if it was just something that would work itself out in camp as I was building up, and it would get stronger and better, or if it was something that was just going to be there all the time. If it stayed where it was, I could pitch with that. But it got to the point my last outing where it's just significantly so much pain that there's just no way to possibly pitch. And there's also no way to turn it around and pitch again."

Arroyo said an enhanced MRI taken Wednesday revealed a significant tear of the rotator cuff, not the labrum (despite reports of the latter). The Nationals on Thursday morning said any reports of a tear are "premature" and that no decision about the pitcher's future will be made yet.

That said, Arroyo was sharing the news with teammates and staffers all morning, the likely outcome of this situation not lost on anyone.

"I've never really seen Bronson sad or down about much at all," said Dusty Baker, who previously managed Arroyo in Cincinnati from 2008-13. "He's a realist and he's a man. He was in good spirits and, on the other hand, you could tell he was a little bewildered about the whole thing.

Signed to a minor league contract over the winter with an invitation to big league camp, Arroyo was competing for a spot at the back end of the Nationals' opening day rotation. He immediately became a popular figure in the clubhouse, especially among younger pitchers who already look to him as a mentor.

"We love him around here," left-hander Gio Gonzalez said. "He's what you want in this clubhouse, that veteran presence. I've grown attached to him. ... I wish I could give him ligaments from my shoulder, whatever he needs from my right arm. If you could take off an arm and give it to somebody, he would be the guy."

A labrum tear as significant as the one diagnosed typically would require surgery, but Arroyo said he won't take that long and arduous path in one last attempt to return to a big league mound.

"No surgery. It's either going to be rehab or retire, one or the other," he said. "And at this point, I really don't know."

If his career is over, Arroyo would retire with a 145-131 record and 4.19 ERA over 15 major league seasons with the Pirates, Red Sox, Reds and Diamondbacks. A World Series champion with Boston in 2004, he established a track record as one of the sport's most reliable and durable pitchers, starting at least 29 games for 10 consecutive seasons.

Though he isn't giving up all hope just yet, Arroyo admits how difficult it will be if he needs to walk away now.

"This has been my life's work, man," he said. "You kind of have your eyes on the prize since you were a 5-, 6-year-old kid. This is what you do, and you don't know anything else. So it's definitely something that's not going to be easy to walk away from if I have to. That's why we want to take a couple days to really analyze it and make sure there's no way I can bring this thing back from the dead. If it is, it'll be disappointing because I would've loved to be around these guys. But we'll see if I'm going to have to shut it down or not."

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