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Arroyo aiming to elbow way into rotation

Coming off Tommy John surgery, right-hander feels sense of familiarity, urgency
MLB.com

VIERA, Fla. -- One of the reasons Bronson Arroyo agreed to join the Nationals and compete for a job this spring was because of his familiarity with Dusty Baker and the coaching staff.

Arroyo has made a career on his stellar command and ability to change speeds, and he knew his stuff -- especially at the age of 39 and coming off Tommy John surgery -- was not going to "wow" anybody, so he needed someone familiar with his tendencies to give him a chance.

VIERA, Fla. -- One of the reasons Bronson Arroyo agreed to join the Nationals and compete for a job this spring was because of his familiarity with Dusty Baker and the coaching staff.

Arroyo has made a career on his stellar command and ability to change speeds, and he knew his stuff -- especially at the age of 39 and coming off Tommy John surgery -- was not going to "wow" anybody, so he needed someone familiar with his tendencies to give him a chance.

But consider Baker impressed with Arroyo through the early stages of Spring Training. Arroyo took the mound in the Nationals' intrasquad game Monday, striking out a pair in a scoreless inning in his first appearance on the mound since the surgery.

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"He was sharper than I expected," Baker said. "He only missed a couple locations, and that's really pretty good. It's nice to see him sharp this early because he's been off for a couple years. I didn't see him labor at all. His delivery and everything looked the same."

Of course Monday was only an intrasquad game, and Baker and Arroyo both know the real test will come later in the spring when Arroyo begins to throw more innings.

Arroyo, who has not pitched in the Majors since 2014, revealed Monday that his contract states the Nationals have to let him know if he made the team five days before camp breaks. And if he is going to make it, it will be as a member of the rotation, where he is competing for one of the two final spots.

Baker would not say who Arroyo was competing against, but Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez all have their positions in the rotation secure, leaving Arroyo to try to unseat either Tanner Roark or Joe Ross

"I want them to perform and then let us have the tough decision," Baker said. "[Arroyo] knew when he came here there was five, kind of, lead dogs before he got here."

For a pitcher like Arroyo, laid back and relaxed, it presents a bit of a different challenge for Spring Training. Arroyo recalled a Spring Training start in the past when he never even threw an outside pitch, a luxury he cannot afford when he is trying to win a job instead of just prepare for the season.

"For such a long time I've been able to come in and just be kind of loosey-goosey," he said. "I can't effectively afford to do that completely right now … [but] you can't just go out there and try to go balls to the wall and try to act like somebody different than you really are.

"You've got to go out there and do what you do in the past, but there is a bit more stress, little bit more tension, a little bit more of a hard focus, in this camp to try to make this club."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Bronson Arroyo