VIERA, Fla. - Bronson Arroyo, one of baseball's most reliable and durable pitchers for more than a decade, may well have seen his career come to an abrupt end due to a shoulder tear suffered during the past week at Nationals camp.
Arroyo, who has been attempting a comeback from 2014 elbow ligament replacement surgery, has a torn labrum in his shoulder, according to MLB Network's Peter Gammons. Nationals officials couldn't immediately confirm the report, but the right-hander was due to be examined by doctors Wednesday after he was scratched from his scheduled Grapefruit League start in Jupiter with shoulder soreness.
If the tear is as significant as reported, Arroyo would require another major surgery to repair it. And based on his suggestions earlier this spring, the 39-year-old likely would be forced to abort his comeback attempt and retire from baseball.
"For me, you either perform or you go home, man," Arroyo said Feb. 18 when asked about his situation reporting to camp on a minor league deal. "This is a position I haven't been in, in a long time. For one, competing for a job. Two, just knowing you're kind of in a different position. (If) I get hit with a line drive in spring training, my career's probably over, because I'm not gonna make the club. ... It's just the way it is. We all have to deal with the fact that the body goes downhill over time, and there's testosterone-filled young kids coming in every day trying to take your job."
The Nationals decided to take a chance on Arroyo this winter, offering the veteran an invitation to big league camp and an opportunity to compete for a spot in their opening day rotation despite the fact he hadn't pitched in a game since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2014.
Prior to that point, Arroyo had been a model of consistency, making at least 29 starts for 10 consecutive seasons with the Red Sox and Reds. Dusty Baker, who managed Arroyo in Cincinnati, pushed the right-hander to sign with the Nationals this winter and make his case to be part of their starting rotation.
Arroyo wound up appearing in two Grapefruit League games plus one intrasquad game. Though his fastball velocity hovered in the low-to-mid 80s, he was plenty effective in his most recent start, retiring all nine Astros batters he faced Thursday evening in Viera.
From the outset, Arroyo admitted the biggest test of his recovery would come between spring outings, unsure how his reconstructed elbow would respond. When he attempted to resume throwing over the weekend, he reported soreness in his shoulder, prompting the Nationals to scratch him from Wednesday's scheduled start against the Marlins and set up a doctor's appointment.
"I'll tell you, the last start he was masterful," Baker said Wednesday morning in Jupiter. "That's what kind of shocked us a little bit, how he didn't respond. Because he appeared like he was in no pain. But you just don't know. Especially as you get older, you don't know how you're going to respond between starts. That was the last test he had to pass."
The Nationals weren't necessarily counting on Arroyo to make their opening day rotation; they already have five proven or promising starters in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross. But the organization's pitching depth beyond that quintet features either highly touted prospects the club doesn't want to rush to the big leagues (Lucas Giolito, Austin Voth) or other right-handers with spotty track records (A.J. Cole, Taylor Jordan).
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