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Bronson Arroyo leaves game after being struck in face with throw

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What’s a ‘healthy pitcher,’ anyway?

The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports

That Bronson Arroyo is even a legitimate contender for a spot in the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation is borderline catastrophic in its own right. Arroyo, who recently turned 40 years old, hasn’t thrown a big league pitch since 2014, and had a little thing called ligament replacement surgery in his elbow since that point. Alas, elbow injuries to Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey have thinned the ranks in camp - ranks that entered camp already thinned after the trade of Dan Straily - and two innings of Cactus League action suddenly thrust Arroyo into having a shot to break camp back in the big leagues.

Of course, he’ll have to survive the rest of the spring to make that happen, and on Saturday he was tripped up by the unlikeliest of sources: his own teammate.

Yep, that's MLB.com's Mark Sheldon relaying that catcher Devin Mesoraco plunked Arroyo square in the noggin, although all sources suggest that Mesoraco didn't tear any additional labra in the process.

Arroyo exited after having allowed a 2-run dinger in his 1.2 IP, but how he responds to being doinked in his cranium is much more important at this point. Sheldon later added that while Arroyo was forced to exit the game, he was not placed in concussion protocol, which is a positive development given how low on the postive/negative news spectrum we're already existing.

GM Dick Williams initially began intimating that the Reds might look to add a veteran arm to the rotation back in December, and he reiterated that concept after the severity of DeSclafani's injury was disclosed last week. Hell, Bronson Arroyo himself is one of those scrap-heap veteran starters that was already brought in to camp in part because of the lack of proven starters in the organization and the early injuries plaguing camp. The question now becomes whether Williams will again dip into that market with Opening Day just two and a half weeks away and only Brandon Finnegan and Scott Feldman existing as rock-solid locks to be ready to form a portion of the rotation.

That's the Brandon Finnegan who hadn't started a big league game prior to joining the Reds at the 2015 trade deadline and the Scott Feldman who pitched primarily as a reliever last year. Those are the "known" quantities.

The epic amount of turnover in the Cincinnati rotation ranks is reaching a point of painful hilarity, in many ways. It's one thing to have a rotation overhaul from year to year due to trading guys away, initiating a rebuild, and watching players leave for greener pastures in order to get younger. That's how Arroyo left in the first place, alongside the likes of Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Mat Latos, and Alfredo Simon, among others. But go back just one year ago - when the Reds were already a year into this deep rebuild - and the Reds were busy considering each of Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias, Bailey, DeSclafani, John Lamb, Simon, Dan Straily, and Jon Moscot for rotation spots, and not a single one of those guys will be one of the five starters until June (at the earliest).

That's maddening.

For each of Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Tim Adleman, Sal Romano, Rookie Davis, and Amir Garrett, there's not just writing on the wall at this point - there's a perfect storm of obviousness that there are innings and roles available for the taking. Fortunately for the Reds, despite their dearth of experience in the system, there's a lot of really talented young depth. Whether the team will choose to roll them out from the start of the season due to a lack of better options I do not know, but the team is reaching a breaking point to either commit to that or bring in outside help - help that hasn't yet assimilated into camp and has only two plus weeks to be ready.

Hopefully, Arroyo will be just fine, and all initial reports are that there's nothing as serious as it could have been. However, exiting Saturday's contest early means he's still just logged 3.2 innings on the mound in Cactus League play, which ain't nearly enough to stretch a guy out after almost three full years on the shelf. In reality, it's the kind of perfect storm that will likely lead the Reds towards the late-spring waiver-wire to find a guy who is healthy, stretched out, but got squeezed off another team's roster due to a lack of spots in their rotation. The Dan Straily situation from 2016, if you will. And while that's a stop-gap move that hopefully will be a decent enough band-aid on the rotation for a time, that's the kind of last ditch effort you'd expect to see in the early portions of a rebuild - not as a team enters the third full season of such a massive endeavor.

Heck, maybe pitching is a way to keep Mesoraco healthy. It seems he's got quite the deceptive delivery.