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For Arroyo, the timing could not be worse

Diamondbacks' right-hander Bronson Arroyo has landed on the DL with a sprain of the right ulnar collateral ligament.
Diamondbacks' right-hander Bronson Arroyo has landed on the DL with a sprain of the right ulnar collateral ligament.
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

This was the event, perhaps more importantly, this is the time in his life that Diamondbacks’ right-hander Bronson Arroyo wanted to avoid.

Since turning pro with the Gulf Coast Pirates in 1995, Arroyo has never been on the disabled list because of arm issues. In the minors during the 1996 and 1998 seasons, he was on the DL for an infected right foot and sprained left ankle, and hoped to avoid being disabled due to an arm injury.

At age 37, Arroyo is now at the stage of his career where arm injuries can be complicated. By his own admission, the swelling and discomfort in his right elbow over the past month is an amalgam of years of wear and tear. Coming into his season with Arizona, Arroyo started 355 major league games and pitched a total of 2,321 innings.

For this season, add another 14 starts and 86 innings and the result is a natural deterioration of muscle and strength. After Arroyo beat the Dodgers last Sunday, he indicated any effectiveness was lost because of the drop in velocity. Now, an MRI conducted on Monday shows inflammation to the right flexor in his right elbow and an unwanted journey to the disabled list.

As a result, Arroyo was placed on the 15-day disabled list with what the Diamondbacks have identified as a sprain of the right ulnar collateral ligament.

“I’ve been beat up for while,” he said after Monday night’s game with the Brewers in Chase Field. “This is the first time I’m on the DL and wanted to avoid this. I guess the MRI showed a lot of stuff from pitching for so long.”

Arroyo said he first felt the pain increase after beating Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals in the Chase Field on May 13. In his next start in St. Louis on May 21, the pain increased, he said, and that started a stretch of three games in which Arroyo lost twice and experienced one no-decision.

Despite winning his subsequent three starts but with the pain and swelling increasing with each outing, Arroyo agreed with manager Kirk Gibson that he reached the end of his current value after five innings last Sunday in Dodger Stadium.

After that game, Gibson told reporters there was genuine concern for Arroyo’s future and an MRI was order for Monday.

Now, Arroyo is shut down for at least two weeks and will not touch a baseball. After this period, there are a few more weeks to see how his arm responds. By that time, the season will likely past the All-Star break and Arroyo’s future for the rest of the campaign could be in jeopardy.

“I don’t know how my arm will react,” Arroyo said. “I pride myself on durability and now, this. I hoped to finish my career without this, so we’ll see how things go.”

The Diamondbacks have invested quite a bit in Arroyo and general manager Kevin Towers admitted that the organization saw some floating bone chips in his right elbow prior to signing this past off-season. Still, he passed a physical but developed a bulging disc in his lower back during spring training. That put Arroyo behind the rest of the staff and Gibson said he sensed a prolonged transition from the disc injury to relative health a few weeks into the season.

That didn’t stop Towers from offering a two-year deal with Arroyo worth $9.5 million this year, $9.5 million in 2015 and $11 million in the 2016 option year. Should the Diamondbacks decide not to exercise the option, there is a $4.5 million buyout.

To this point in the season, the value for Arroyo was strong and he went on the DL leading the D-backs in wins with seven and third in innings pitched among starters.

Still, the Diamondbacks appear to have a major decision to make and the Arroyo's future in Sedona Red deserves an answer.

While management and Arroyo may be uncertain about the days and weeks ahead, both parties appear comfortable with the old-age notion that “time will tell.”

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