JUPITER, Fla. - Bronson Arroyo's attempted comeback from Tommy John surgery hit a snag today when the 39-year-old right-hander was scratched from his scheduled spring training start with shoulder soreness.
Arroyo was supposed to pitch four innings against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, but Nationals manager Dusty Baker said the veteran hurler reported soreness earlier in the week when he tried to throw in between starts. The club waited a couple of days to see if the soreness dissipated, then made the decision Tuesday to scratch him from his outing.
Blake Treinen, competing for a spot in the Nationals bullpen, gets the start in Arroyo's place against Miami.
Arroyo, trying to make the opening day roster as a minor league invitee this spring, had impressed team officials in his last game appearance. He tossed three perfect innings against the Astros, striking out three.
"I'll tell you, the last start he was masterful," Baker said. "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."
Indeed, Arroyo reported for spring training last month saying he wouldn't really know if he could make a full return from his 2014 elbow ligament replacement surgery until he had a chance to pitch every fifth day and see how his arm felt between starts.
"For me, the only question mark is ... can I throw the ball hard repetitively, over and over and over again on four days' rest and not have my elbow swell up?" he said on his first day in camp. "Because if the health's there, my body feels good enough to compete like I have the last few years."
One of baseball's most reliable and durable starters, Arroyo didn't spend a day on the disabled list during a 10-year stretch with the Red Sox and Reds before he tore his elbow ligament in 2014 with the Diamondbacks. He had Tommy John surgery that summer, then missed the entire 2015 season while rehabbing from the injury.
Though it hadn't been revealed previously, Baker said today Arroyo also had minor shoulder surgery around the same time.
"They operated on his elbow, you know," Baker said. "And then while they were in there, they cleaned up his shoulder. The elbow, he's not having any trouble with (right now)."
Baker said Arroyo is scheduled to meet with doctors, though he couldn't say what specific tests are planned or a potential timetable for the right-hander to resume throwing.
"You know how soreness goes," said Baker, who managed Arroyo in Cincinnati from 2008-13. "Soreness could be there one day and gone the next. You've got to do what you've got to do. And the thing about Bronson: You're not worried about him lying to you. He's as honest as the day is long. And if Bronson says something's wrong, then you've got to believe him."
Arroyo has been competing for a spot in the Nationals rotation, joining fellow right-handers Tanner Roark and Joe Ross in a battle for the staff's No. 4 and No. 5 slots. His contract includes an opt-out five days before the end of camp if he's not added to the organization's major league roster.
The Nationals' pitching depth, while boasting highly regarded prospects like Lucas Giolito and Austin Voth, is lacking in major league experience. Beyond the current projected starting five, young right-handers A.J. Cole and Taylor Jordan would sit at the top of the depth chart. Veteran Yusmeiro Petit, signed to be the club's long reliever, also is considered an emergency starter if needed.
"We haven't gone that far yet," Baker said when asked who would start if Arroyo is injured to open the season. "We just found this news out. We haven't really had the time to think about rotation depth. But we've got a lot of depth. There's some guys at the Triple-A level that are throwing the ball good."
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