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Washington Nationals’ prospect Cade Cavalli tries to build on strong spring showing down at Triple-A

The top prospect in the Nationals’ system will likely make his MLB debut at some point this season...

MiLB: APR 07 Rochester Red Wings at Toledo Mud Hens Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at the beginning of Spring Training last month that top pitching prospect Cade Cavalli, 23, would let the club know when he was at the point in his development where the club could call him up to make his MLB debut.

“Cade is going to tell us when he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues, I think,” Rizzo explained to members of the press gathered in West Palm Beach, FL. “He’s got electric stuff, he’s got an elite package, we know that, he just needs to refine it a little bit. And the pace of that is up to him. He’s an extremely hard worker, and he’s got to take it at his pace, but he’s going to let us know by his performance when he’s ready, and as always, what we’ve done here with myself as the GM, when he’s ready he’s going to be here.”

Cavalli, the club’s top pick in the 2020 Draft, threw at the team’s alternate training site in his first pro year, then started at High-A Wilmington in 2021, and ended up in Triple-A Rochester in the Nationals’ system, with a 3.36 ERA, 60 walks (4.38 BB/9), and 175 strikeouts (12.77 K/9) in 24 starts and 123 1⁄3 IP across three levels in the organization.

MiLB: APR 07 Rochester Red Wings at Toledo Mud Hens Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“The biggest thing for him as we tell all of our young guys and even our veteran guys,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said early in Spring Training, “if you can’t throw the ball consistently over the plate, the struggles are going to be big for you. Especially when you get up here and the hitters are so much better, I think, because they got a good eye. So, he’s — when I watch him, he’s been 0-2 on a lot of hitters, he still has this little thing about striking guys out and burying pitches, and I said, ‘No, I said, some of the best pitchers I’ve known they attack the strike zone, they got hitters out three pitches or less, they were in the fifth, sixth inning with 70 pitches.’

“I said, ‘With your stuff, I think you can be one of those guys, I really do.

“There’s a point where you can overpower somebody, but it’s just about throwing strikes, and consistently. So he’s in a good place, and I’m looking forward to watching him.”

From the start this spring, the righty felt comfortable pitching against big league hitters.

“I felt like I belonged there, facing those kind of hitters. And I think I showed today I can go and compete with anyone,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, after his initial outing in Grapefruit League action.

“He fit right in,” Cavalli’s manager added.

Cavalli was in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster to the end of Spring Training, though he did get blown up in his final outing, and the club decided to send him back down to Triple-A Rochester for more work.

MiLB: APR 07 Rochester Red Wings at Toledo Mud Hens Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

GM Mike Rizzo told reporters the top pitching prospect in the Nationals’ system is not too far away from making his MLB debut.

“He just has to do — kind of the minute things to become a full-packed major league starter,” the general manager in the nation’s capital explained.

“We want to see him use all his pitches. I watched him pitch last night [in his 2022 debut at Triple-A],” the GM said of the start which saw Cavalli give up four hits, a walk, and three runs over four innings in which he struck out four batters.

“His stuff was very, very good,” Rizzo added. “He threw a lot of changeups, which was part of the developmental process that we have in place for him.

“Just see him take another step forward. The stuff is there, it’s major league-ready, he has to harness it, command it, and do the little things it takes to win at the major league level.”

Cavalli was scheduled to make his second start of the season last night, but the Red Wings were washed out by rain in Rochester.