WASHINGTON – The No. 54 blue jersey with red numerals hung in the home clubhouse here Friday afternoon, situated between the cubicles of veteran pitchers Sean Doolittle and Tanner Rainey.
That new jersey belonged to Cade Cavalli, who was born in Oklahoma 24 years and 12 days ago and will make his Major League debut here tonight at Nationals Park.
Drafted in the first round out of the University of Oklahoma in 2020, Cavalli spent this season at Triple-A Rochester.
There were bumps and bruises along the way as he pitched for Red Wings’ manager Matt LeCroy.
RHP – No. 54 – Cade Cavalli pic.twitter.com/As9lho4Kjj— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 26, 2022
But in the end, the Nationals’ brain trust felt the time was right for Cavalli.
“I’m excited about it,” said manager Davey Martinez, sitting in the pressroom here about three hours before the first pitch. “I spoke to him a little bit. I talked to him a little bit about trying to throw strike one.”
Martinez said there would be no limits on his workload against the Reds, who enter the game 48-75.
In his last start for Rochester, Cavalli went 109 pitches. That was among the most in the league this season, Rochester manager Matt LeCroy told Federal Baseball on Thursday.
“I want him to go out and have fun,” Martinez said. “Go out and compete and help us win a game. Don’t do more than you are capable of.”
Cavalli becomes the 24th player drafted/signed and developed by the Nationals since 2005 to start a game for Washington.
He is the top pitching prospect in the Nationals’ system and the No. 52 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America.
Among qualified pitchers in Washington’s system, he leads minor league hurlers in opponents’ batting average, at .215, ranks second in ERA, at 3.71, strikeouts, at 104, and WHIP at 1.18.
He went five innings on Sunday for Rochester and got the win against Worcester, the top farm team of the Red Sox, as he gave up one run on two hits.
Cavalli was 6-4 in 97 innings with the Red Wings and gave up just 75 hits with 104 strikeouts and 39 walks.
He pitched for Wilmington in 2021 at the Single-A level then made 11 starts for Double-A Harrisburg last year and six for Rochester.
The right-hander made 20 starts this year for Rochester.