Cade Cavalli was the fifth player and third pitcher to make his MLB debut with Washington’s Nationals this season, and the 24-year-old right-hander, who was the club’s top pick in 2020 (taken at No. 22 overall), made a strong impression in his first major league outing, though it didn’t look pretty in the final box score (4.1 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 99 P, 57 S).
Cavalli handled it all well though, as his manager said after a 7-3 loss to Cincinnati’s Reds.
“He was good,” Davey Martinez told reporters in the nation’s capital on Friday night.
“I talked to him after the game and he said he felt good, and I said a couple mistakes that he said he made — a couple being that he hit some batters with a curveball at two strikes — those things can be cleaned up, obviously. And for me, those balls — slipped out of his hand a little bit. But we’ll clean that up. But what I really want him to do is really establish his fastball, not rely so much on his breaking balls, attack with his fastball a little bit and then utilize his breaking balls throughout the count, and I think that’s just a minor adjustment.”
There were some mistakes made behind him, but Cavalli wasn’t rattled, and he didn’t show it if he was frustrated.
“He was fine. He never brought it up, he never mentioned it, he went back and got to that next hitter, which was really nice to see. So, like I said, I sat there, I watched him, his stuff, like I said, his stuff is good,” Martinez said.
Cavalli said he felt calm out there because he’d pictured his debut before, with visualization techniques and meditation helping him maintain control.
“I put myself on that mound plenty of times before I got there,” Cavalli said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato. “So I felt like I had already been there. It was really cool.”
“There was no panic,” Cavalli added at another point his own post-game scrum with the reporters in Nationals Park.
“I felt very composed. But I’ve got to execute more; it comes down to that. You’ve got to execute pitches, and I didn’t do that tonight. I didn’t put my team in a position to win a ballgame. I’ve got to be better.”
His manager said he saw significant improvement from the already-gifted pitcher he last saw in person back in Spring Training.
“He slowed everything down mechanically, he repeated his mechanics really well, which was really nice,” Martinez said, “and that’s something that when he left Spring Training we wanted him to do, and like I said before, we added the changeup, and he worked on it, and his changeup will play here, it really will. So he threw some good ones, and that to me is exciting.
“Moving forward, I’m actually really excited to see him go out and compete again in five days and we’ll see what happens then.”
The other two pitchers who debuted for the Nationals in 2022?
Lefty Evan Lee and righty Jackson Tetreault, both of whom suffered injuries which landed them on the IL, Lee with a left flexor strain, and Tetreault with a stress fracture of his right scapula.
“Unfortunate that they got hurt, but it was good to see these guys,” Martinez said of the two other pitchers to debut so far this season. “We know that when Jackson [Tetreault] was here, he did well. And Evan Lee was here, he did well, and he did well in a couple roles for him, and that’s good. Now it’s just getting him healthy, knowing that these guys are going to come into Spring Training healthy, ready to go, and it gives us a lot more options moving forward, which is really nice. I don’t know what they’re going to do. I know that right now they’re both going to be penciled in to start, because it gives us a little bit more depth, but you don’t know where our needs are going to be moving forward, so they both could fit in different roles.
“But I liked them both, and both of them came up here and did well, and fit in, and were eager to learn and eager to get better.
“Jackson was tough on himself at times, but once he settled in, as you could see, he pitched really well. And Evan is one of those guys where he’ll do whatever, and do it well, and very competitive, and I like them both, and hopefully like I said, they come to Spring Training ready to go.”
Lucius Fox and Joey Meneses were the other two players who made their big league debuts this season, if you were wondering, and the Nationals are likely going to call up some more new, or possibly old(er) players when rosters expand on September 1st, though they haven’t yet decided on who’s going to get an opportunity.
“I talked a little bit with [GM Mike] Rizzo so far about it, but there’s different options that we can do,” Martinez said last night. “We really haven’t sat down and said, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ We still got a few days, but we’re definitely going to have another couple guys here.”