“Cade [Cavalli] is going to tell us when he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues, I think,” GM Mike Rizzo said this past spring, when asked when fans could expect the top arm in their organization to be pitching in the majors.
“He’s got electric stuff,” Rizzo said of the Washington Nationals’ top pick in the 2020 Draft, taken 22nd overall two years back. “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.”
With the Nationals in need of pitching in the coming days after Erick Fedde joined a number of other starters on the IL this weekend, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez was asked if there was any consideration to calling up Cavalli, the soon-to-turn-24-year-old right-hander, who’s put up a 4.03 ERA, 30 walks, 77 Ks, and a .216 BAA in 16 starts and 76 IP in the year at Triple-A.
He just returned from a blister-ish issue which Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies earlier this month, was, “nothing to worry about. It was some skin ripped off.”
“But I saw a picture of it late last night, and it doesn’t look like anything much,” he added.
In Cavalli’s last three starts, including his return after a short time off, he’s had one unearned run score when he’s been on the mound, in 17 2⁄3 IP.
So when will the Nationals make the call?
“We don’t want to rush his development,” big league skipper Davey Martinez said in his pre-game presser on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve got to go back to the pandemic year, where guys didn’t really do much, right?
“So that was part of his development. He didn’t get to pitch all in ’20. We take that into consideration. He needs to just build innings. And he is getting better, believe me.”
While Cavalli did throw at the Nationals’ Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg, VA, he did miss out on competitive action in t4he COVID campaign, so it is a consideration when they’re talking about his continued development.
“There’s no one that wants him here more than [Rizzo], myself,” Martinez continued.
“Because I know when he does get here, he’s going to help us. But we’ve got to be smart about it. And I think [Rizzo] has done a great job of holding him back, because there [are] times when he’s been really good. And we sit down and say: ‘Oh, man, this could be ...’
“But then we sit down and say, ‘What’s best for Cade right now?’ And that’s to continue to let him develop. He’s going to be here.
“He’ll be here soon,” the fifth-year skipper added. “But we’ve got to stay strong, and not try to push him up here. But just continue to let him get stronger, let him develop, he’s been working on a changeup which is developing very well. He’s working on a curveball instead of a slider, which — it’s coming along, he’s been throwing a lot better, and throwing strikes, and learning how to pitch in high-leverage situations, so things are going well with him, so we want him to continue to grow, mature, and then when he gets here we want him to be here to stay.”
Martinez elaborated on the talk of Cavalli working on a curve over a slider when asked.
“He’s thrown so many different pitches, but we’re trying to get him to actually do away with the slider more, throw fastball/curveball/changeup, and focus on those three. His slider is still there, but we don’t want him to use it as much, his curveball has been really good, and we think that he’s going to be better off throwing a curveball than a slider.”
“For me, and up here looking at all the different information, and because of his fastball, the curveball is a little bit more of a change of speed for him,” Martinez said.
“[He] can control [it] a lot better than his slider.
“His slider was more of a chase pitch, we’re trying to throw his curveball more for strikes, and he’s been doing that.”
So clearly, as he said, Martinez and everyone in the organization are following closely as Cavalli works down at Triple-A, waiting for word that he’s ready to make the jump.
“Yeah, I mean, like I said, every time I pick up the box score and see that he’s going 5/75, and giving up a couple hits, and striking out 7-8, I think, ‘Woah!’” Martinez said. “But then I’ve got to understand, there’s still time for him right now, right? We’re really in a situation where we really feel like we can give him some more time down there, and more time to develop instead of pushing him up here and rushing him. And that’s just our organization theory, not just Rizzo, it’s everybody talking together and trying to do what’s best for Cade.
“Like I said, it’s one thing getting him here, it’s another thing getting him here, keeping him here, and having some success. We feel like he’s close, but when he does come here we want him to stay here and have some success doing it. The biggest thing with that is like I said, understanding that he can get out of situations throwing strikes, consistent strikes, and he’s been getting way better at it.”