Bronson Arroyo sustains torn rotator cuff, but probably won’t retire because of it
First, it was shoulder soreness. Then, a career-ending torn labrum. Then, a significant tear in the rotator cuff. Then, bursa sac inflammation. Then, partial tears and inflammation of the rotator cuff. Just exactly what is going on with Bronson Arroyo’s shoulder—and his career?
The confusion began on Wednesday when Arroyo was scratched from a spring training start due to shoulder soreness. Peter Gammons reported an “80 per cent labrum tear” and the end of both Arroyo’s comeback and his career. While further reports surfaced of Arroyo saying his goodbyes to teammates within the Nationals’ clubhouse, the team requested an MRI to confirm the injury, and found that instead of a torn labrum, Arroyo had a “significant” rotator cuff tear with similar implications for his career trajectory.
On Saturday, the doctor who examined Arroyo admitted that he misread the results of the MRI, and the right-hander simply had a case of bursa sac inflammation, but the Nationals contradicted that report the following day, when they announced that Arroyo’s condition was, in fact, a partial tear and inflammation of the rotator cuff.
The good news? Arroyo’s 15-year career isn’t quite at an end yet, though he won’t be opening the season on a major-league stage anytime soon. The Nationals will shut him down for 10-14 days before starting a rehab process that could last as long as six weeks. The veteran righty was already skating on thin ice against younger, healthier candidates Tanner Roark and Joe Ross for a spot at the back of the rotation, and according to stipulations in his contract, he was unwilling to take a spot in the bullpen if things didn’t work out. Until he makes a full recovery, it’s difficult to predict just what his role will be or what he might be capable of producing. PECOTA’s pre-injury projections spelled out a 4.15 ERA and an 0.2 WARP over 38 innings, but any opportunities he gets will be icing on the top of a substantial and noteworthy career.
The Pirates believe they can win more games with Andrew McCutchen batting second
In the endless shuffling and repositioning of spring training, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is trying to shake up what has generally been a pretty concrete lineup. Despite the club’s wholehearted dedication to utilizing sabermetric resources, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik says that lineup construction is one area that has seen little attention over the past few seasons and is due for a check-up.
What that check-up found was a new spot in the lineup for the Pirates’ most potent offensive force. Over the past four seasons, Andrew McCutchen has made a home in the No. 3 spot, batting .313/.404/.523 to the tune of a collective 23.9 WARP. Of course, the issue isn’t with McCutchen’s production, but with the kind of scoring opportunities afforded him in the no. 3 spot. While the league’s best hitters have often been sandwiched in the heart of the lineup, those batting no. 3 see far more two-out, empty-base situations than their eight teammates. A good part of lineup optimization requires the best OBP performers to cluster toward the top of the lineup, which is what Hurdle appears to envision for the team going forward.
Lineup restructuring may start with McCutchen, but it can’t end there. John Jaso’s name was tossed around as a potential leadoff hitter, though he lacks the speed that conventional basestealers possess in the no. 1 spot. In 2015, the 32-year-old’s on-base percentage cleared .380, which could come in handy if McCutchen has an extra 20 or 30 at-bats to clear the bases. Hurdle also expressed interest in revising the bottom third of the lineup, but said he’ll hold off until the following offseason so that the team can adjust to a full lineup revision during spring training. Whether or not Hurdle’s new lineup can produce an extra handful of wins remains to be seen, but squeezing the last bit of run production from the team—without spending extra money—certainly won’t hurt.
The Rangers are putting a lid on their search for a new catcher
After poking around for a new backstop this spring, Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels has decided to table the search for the time being. Over the offseason, the team was linked to both the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy and the Padres’ Derek Norris, each of whom presented relatively stable, affordable options behind the plate. Although either Lucroy or Norris would provide a significant upgrade over the Rangers’ internal backup options, the club is facing a budget that’s already $7 million past its allotted amount and needed to find somewhere to scale back.
Despite their lack of depth behind starting catcher Robinson Chirinos, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Rangers—yet. Veteran backstops Chris Gimenez, Bobby Wilson, and Michael McKenry offer a nice sampling of offensive power and defensive agility, while up-and-comer Brett Nicholas might have the right combination of both. Gimenez and Wilson slotted in for an injured Chirinos and Carlos Corporan in the second half of the Rangers’ 2015 campaign, combining for 1.4 WARP and earning Gimenez a spot in the postseason even after Chirinos returned to the lineup.
Nicholas, a sixth-round pick from the 2010 draft, provides the Rangers with another left-handed option in the lineup. He spent the last five seasons pinballing between first base and home plate, but has focused more on his defensive skills behind the plate this spring. According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Daniels doesn’t want to waste any more time seasoning the 27-year-old in the minors. If he can earn the job by Opening Day, he’ll be taking on 60-70 games in Chirinos’ absence.
While the team may have high hopes for the young catcher, Nicholas’ position as a minor leaguer also affords them some flexibility in case things don’t work out. Both Wilson and McKenry can opt out of their minor-league contracts if they don’t land a spot on the 25-man roster this spring, while Gimenez is out of options. It may not be the ideal set-up the Rangers envisioned with Lucroy or Norris at the helm, but it’s their best bet at keeping Chirinos healthy and productive for another season.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now