WASHINGTON - The various instructors for the Washington Nationals who are on-site at West Palm Beach take turns serving as the bullpen coach and pitching coach for that day’s game in the Instructional League.
When Cade Cavalli, 22, and the Nationals’ first-round pick in 2020, made his debut on Tuesday, it was Sam Narron who was the pitching coach that day for the Nats.
Cavalli, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, went three scoreless innings as the Nationals beat the Marlins 4-3 in the IL opener. Narron was not at the alternate site this summer so it was a change for the former big leaguer to see Cavalli.
“I was up close and personal with Cade. He is a special, special player; very athletic and lively fastball,” Narron told Federal Baseball.
“He complements it well will all of his off-speed pitches – curve, slider, and change.”
Narron, the Single-A Potomac pitching coach in 2019, was impressed with how Cavalli handled a potential problem in his first IL start.
“He had a ball that was a mistake behind him but he showed great presence on the mound and battled right back,” Narron noted. “He put up a zero pretty easily. He has the making of a really good big-league pitcher, a really good big-league pitcher.”
Cavalli took advantage of being around Major Leaguers this summer as opposed to playing at a lower level of the minors. Some of those with big-league experience in Virginia at the alternate site included Wilmer Difo, Andrew Stevenson, and Jake Noll.
“It gives them a great opportunity to learn from guys who have been at the high level,” said Narron, who pitched briefly for Texas in 2004. “At the lower levels you tend to be around guys your age and your playing experience; at the lower levels they just out-stuff guys.”
“Their fastballs are so good and their breaking balls are so good they can get away with more mistakes. When they reach the upper levels, they can’t get away with that quite as much.
“Those upper-level guys can help them understand that and keep their focus on more executing their pitches instead of just trying to blow it by you.”
Cavalli was drafted out of the University of Oklahoma this past summer and was part of the 60-player pool in Fredericksburg – the alternate site in Virginia.
“Personally, I think it was the best thing that we could have had in this environment,” Cavalli told reporters in a Zoom call last month.
“I mean, you face the same guys, and they’ve seen your stuff, so you’ve got to get creative.
“It’s like that when you got to the league. They’re going to see you a couple times, got to get creative.
“I just feel like I got 100x better down here, and even though it was the same thing every day, I absolutely enjoyed it.”
“It’s part of pitching. I think that’s the awesome and fun part about pitching. You’ve got to know how to sequence them. Got to go execute it, that’s the biggest thing.
“You’ve just got to stay in control, let your mind think clearly against these hitters, and they’re your buddies, so you can have fun with them too, it’s been awesome.”
Now he is getting a new experience in Florida and finally getting to face another organization.