Cavalli (shoulder) placed on IL: 'I want to be back out there'

August 31st, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Cade Cavalli was placed on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation on Wednesday, less than a week after making his Major League debut on Friday.

Cavalli, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Nationals’ No. 4 prospect and No. 58 overall, gave up seven runs and recorded six strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings (99 pitches) against the Reds following his big league callup.

The next day, Cavalli felt “abnormal soreness” when he woke up and thought it would subside. But when he played catch that afternoon, he experienced shoulder tightness after around 10 throws.

“It was something that I had never felt before, and it was not normal at all,” Cavalli recounted on Wednesday. “You’ve got to take care of your body. As much as I didn’t want to say anything, you have to.”

Cavalli was told by pitching coach Jim Hickey to stop throwing, then he underwent an MRI on Sunday.

“Everything looks good, except for he has a little bit of inflammation around the capsule,” manager Dave Martinez said prior to the Nationals’ 10-6 loss to the Athletics on Tuesday. “But the labrum, tendons, the rotator cuff -- everything's very, very clean. … Cade says he feels good today, but we need to be very, very cautious. We're talking about a kid that's part of a big future of ours. So we're going to take it easy, and hopefully we can knock this out in a couple of weeks and then we'll re-evaluate after that.”

At this point, the Nationals are not shutting Cavalli down for the remainder of the season. But with only 33 games remaining, that is not out of the question, either.

“I don’t let my mind go there, no, no,” Cavalli said. “I just want to be out there, so that’s where my head’s at and it’s to get back. Obviously, you’ve got to be smart and take care of it and not rush things and push. But I want to be back out there bad, so I never let my mind go there where I’m shut down.”

The Nats’ first pick (No. 22 overall) in the 2020 Draft, Cavalli has been a big piece of the organization’s future plans as it shapes its next core of starting pitchers. Even after Cavalli excelled in the Minor Leagues in ‘21, the team emphasized the importance of not rushing his Major League debut this year.

The Nationals currently have seven pitchers on the 60-day IL, and they are being very careful with their young arms. Josiah Gray, 24, is skipping a start given his spike in innings this season. MacKenzie Gore, 23, is on a cautious road back from left elbow inflammation that he sustained while on the Padres. The path for Cavalli will be thought through just as comprehensively.

“The fact that he came up here and got a start was awesome, and that's a testament to how hard he's worked to get better,” Martinez said. “That's the way we're looking at it, that’s [how I told] Cade to look at it. I said, ‘This is just the beginning of a long future for you pitching in the big leagues. … Let's just focus on that and get you healthy. Like I said, you're going to pitch many, many games [and] you're going to win many, many games for us, too.’”

Paolo Espino will take the mound on Thursday in place of Cavalli. The Nationals called up Cory Abbott from Triple-A on Wednesday, but the multi-role right-hander will be utilized as a reliever, given the taxed state of the bullpen following Erick Fedde’s exit after 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Cavalli will stay with the team on its upcoming 10-game road trip while working on strengthening activities that don’t require throwing, which included back and core exercises on Tuesday.

“I'm not going to be shutting it down completely,” said Cavalli. “We've got something to work forward to. There's still some season left, and that's where my head's at. I want to get back. I want to go compete again this year for this club.”

Martinez would also like injured veteran pitchers -- Cavalli sits next to Sean Doolittle and Tanner Rainey in the clubhouse -- to share their advice and experiences to help prepare the 24-year-old for the recovery process.

“He's about as positive as they come; he really is,” said Martinez. “He's a go-getter, and his focus is trying to help us win as many games as possible, whenever that is."