Gray, Cavalli making small strides in rehab process

June 12th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

DETROIT -- Right-handers and navigated through the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park on Tuesday afternoon preparing for their pregame routines. Their daily activities look different than most of their teammates, but they have the same objective: To be on the field helping the Nationals.

Gray (right elbow/forearm flexor strain) and Nationals No. 5 prospect Cavalli (Tommy John surgery) traveled with the team to Detroit to throw a bullpen session as they continue their rehab process. Both pitchers spoke on their progress and their excitement for advancing in their recovery.

Josiah Gray
Anticipated next step: Rehab start with Double-A Harrisburg on Friday at FNB Field

Gray has checked off one rehab start, and he is gearing up for his second on Friday. He allowed three runs on three hits (one home run) and one walk with two strikeouts over three innings with the Single-A Fredericksburg Nationals on Sunday. He located 26 of 43 pitches for strikes.

“Definitely a little rusty, working out the kinks,” Gray said. “But I felt prepared. I felt good for each inning that I threw and worked on some things. Looking forward to the next one.”

Gray has not pitched in a game with the Nationals since April 4. In two starts this season, he is 0-2 with a 14.04 ERA across 8 1/3 innings.

“Breaking ball [was] not as sharp, changeup was nice, [we] want to continue to work with fastball location,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “Mechanics [were] good. He was a little bit quick, but that’s to be expected his first time out there competing. Hopefully, the second time he slows down a little bit and finishes his pitches. I think that will help his breaking ball a lot.”

Gray approaches each rehab appearance like he would a Major League start. He noted it doesn’t matter the affiliate level of the opponent -- he “wants to get real results.” Gray is getting reacclimated with game speed, pitch clock, reading swings and covering bases. For the Nationals, the priority for the All-Star pitcher is being 100 percent healthy when he returns.

“I felt good,” said Gray. “Not too sore, not too beat up. Just felt good.”

Cade Cavalli
Anticipated next step: Live session on Saturday at Nationals Park

Cavalli has made two starts on his rehab assignment: the Rookie-level FCL Nationals and May 30 with High-A Wilmington. In the latter outing, he allowed two runs on no hits and three walks with five strikeouts across 54 pitches (30 strikes, two wild pitches) over 2 2/3 innings. Cavalli has since rejoined the Nationals to continue this throwing program with the team.

“He was so ramped up to go, go, go,” said Martinez. “I think now was a chance to slow him down a little bit and get him going again. But that’s part of the process with him. He’s been so good that we want to make sure we keep him going this way instead of having him hit a lull.”

Martinez added, “We’re in a good place with him. He’s in a good place.”

Cavalli has been making adjustments to use his back leg more and get into his lower half. In turn, he is putting less stress on his arm.

“You take six months off anything and get back into it -- especially if you tore it and got surgery -- you need to recreate the path for your arm and your body to move,” he said.

There is not a definitive date set for Cavalli’s return. But the more boxes he checks, the more the anticipation grows.

“Oh my goodness, I have to keep reminding myself to take this day by day, because it’s been 15 months of getting after it, and I’m just ready to get back into some real games and help the club,” Cavalli said. “That’s what I’m most looking forward to. Now that we’re toward the end, I just have to keep reminding myself day to day, because I am feeling the finish line.”