Righty veteran did not pitch in 2015, but prepared to earn Majors spot
By Jamal Collier
VIERA, Fla. -- While weighing his options on whether to sign with the Reds or Nationals as a free agent this past offseason, Bronson Arroyo had a phone conversation with new Nationals manager Dusty Baker.
Arroyo, who played for Baker for six seasons in Cincinnati, wanted to know if there was a true opportunity to make the team with Washington. Baker assured him that there was, provided he was healthy and pitched well, and then he told Arroyo to "go to a mountain top and think about it."
"No, no, no, I need you on this ballclub," Arroyo recalled Baker saying on Thursday, the official report date for Nationals pitchers and catchers.
Eventually, Arroyo was convinced, and he signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to earn his way onto the team this spring.
"For me, it's either perform or go home," Arroyo said. "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.
"It's almost like full circle. I'm back to being a 22-year-old kid competing against guys, except now I'm the old guy."
But first, Arroyo, who turns 39 on Feb. 24, will have to prove that he is healthy.
He has not pitched in a Major League game since 2014, when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow after 14 starts with Arizona. Despite never appearing in a game in 2015, Arroyo was traded twice -- first from the D-backs to the Braves, and then from the Braves to the Dodgers. That allowed him to receive what he called a well-rounded rehab, after hearing the opinions of three different organizations.
Arroyo said his elbow is pain-free now. He has been on a regular throwing program since December, playing long-toss a few days a week and throwing bullpen sessions in an effort to stay sharp.
Still, he is not sure how his elbow will hold up. Arroyo was shut down as recently as October with pain from throwing. The arm feels good now, and he has been throwing without problems for the past few months, but he is not sure how it will hold up through the stress of trying to start every fifth day.
"For me, the only question mark is, can I throw the ball hard repetitively over and over and over again and turn it back around on four days' rest and not have my elbow swelling up on me," he said. "If the health's there, I feel like my body feels good enough to compete as I have for the last 5-10 years. But it remains to be seen."
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.