PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks on Monday placed durable right-hander Bronson Arroyo on the disabled list for the first time in his 15-year major league career, a move that will end his streak of 336 consecutive starts dating back to 2004.
Arroyo was diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament after an afternoon MRI, a condition that can be a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Arroyo will attempt to rehab the injury. He plans to stay away from throwing for 10 days to see how the elbow reacts, then begin a throwing program that he hopes can get him back after the All-Star break.
"I’ve dealt with a lot of things in the past," Arroyo said. "There are certain protocols that I know would have cleaned them up. This one has acted a bit different. I really don’t know what is going to happen. We are going to try to get all the swelling out and let it calm down completely … then try to fire it back up and see if it acts differently. If it acts the same, we are gong to have to try something different."
Arroyo (7-4) leads the D-backs in victories after going five innings in a 6-3 win over the Dodgers on Sunday, when his fastball topped out at 83 mph, less velocity that even he usually takes into a game. He has pitched with right elbow soreness for the past month or longer and said the pain kept getting worse. He was unable to do his side work before his last two starts, and he told pitching coach Mike Harkey while warming up Sunday that he knew it would be his last start for awhile.
"I don’t think I cracked 80 miles an hour in the first inning," Arroyo said. "To win like that is tough to do. I can’t keep going out there putting inflammatories in my body and beating myself down. I see the arm going south. If it would have stayed the same as it was five, six starts ago, I could deal with the pain. But it continues to get more and more swollen.
Arroyo, 37, won his last three starts, taking the ball when it was his turn, as he has done every time since May 15, 2004, when he returned to the Red Sox’s rotation for good. He is 121-112 with a 4.19 ERA in 405 major league appearances, 369 starts.
"I’ve prided myself on durability for a long time. I’ve been avoiding this day for two decades, doing a bunch of meticulous small things to stay here," he said. "But you know, I would have hoped to make it to the end of my career without having to do it. It’s just not the way it is. I’ve gone out the last six times and it’s been impossible."
Arroyo had a small bone chip in his right elbow when he signed a two-year, $21 million deal with the D-backs on Feb. 4, general manager Kevin Towers said, but that is not believed to be the issue.
"It’s very unfortunate. A guy who has had an unblemished track record when it comes to posting up each and every time. It would have been hard to run him out there again. Going to war, as he said, against AK47s with his little 22 (caliber). He still found a way in win, which was amazing," Towers said.
The MRI showed "a lot of stuff in there from pitching a lot of years," Arroyo said. "There is a ton of swelling. It looks like a little bit of arthritis and several things. We really don’t know how it is going to respond. We’re going to take it day-by-day and see what happens."
Arroyo was taking several hours of treatment a day in the last few weeks, and he said when he woke up Monday his arm was at a 40-degree angle.
"I wasn’t able to straighten it out at all. It’s getting to where you are closing down the movement to the degree where every time I throw my arm doesn’t want to straighten out. Just the straightening out is constantly irritating it. I’ve pitched like that for awhile," Arroyo said,
"But what happens is when you can’t straighten your arm out, you don’t have a lot of finish, and you also start changing some things. I throw a lot of sinkers. It doesn’t help a sinker. It also changes the way you approach the game, because physically you are not able to do what you normally would out there."
The D-backs understood Arroyo was pitching through the pain.
"I think the last three times he went out there he’s been at about 50 percent," Towers said. "It’s pretty amazing that he’s posted the type of numbers. It just shows you are the art of pitching, and changing of speeds and being smart.
"I sat right behind home plate yesterday and I was like ‘Whoa, 76, 78 (mph)’. How is he going to get through this lineup? Maybe the first time, but two or three times through the lineup. He got a ‘W.’ He’s fun to watch pitch. He’s been great for guys like Chase Anderson, (Josh) Collmenter. Some of our young guys. How you can go out there and win without your best stuff."