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Washington Nationals’ Cade Cavalli shut down with right shoulder inflammation

Bad news for the Nationals’ 24-year-old starter, but he and his manager are staying positive.

Jeff Zgonina Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Davey Martinez had some unfortunate news to share before he fielded any questions in his pregame press conference with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. Martinez joked with press members gathered at Nationals Park, then adopted a serious tone when it was time to give the news.

“I’m gonna start off by saying that we’re going to shut Cade [Cavalli] down for two weeks,” the fifth-year manager said.

“He threw in the game, came back the next day, was going to do his routine, he was playing catch, after about 10 throws, he said he felt tight in the shoulder area,” Martinez explained.

“So we shut him down. He came in, we got him an MRI right away.”

And outside of the inflammation, it looked good.

“Everything looks good — except for he has a little bit of inflammation around the capsule. But the labrum, tendons, the rotator cuff, everything’s very, very clean. So we’re gonna be very, very cautious. We talked to Cade. Cade says he feels good today,” Martinez continued.

“But we need to be very, very cautious. We’re talking about a kid that’s part of a big future of ours. So we’re gonna take it easy. And hopefully we can knock this out in a couple of weeks and then we’ll re-evaluate after that.”

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Cavalli, 24, and the Nationals’ 2020 1st Round pick and top pitching prospect, made 20 starts, and threw 97 innings at Triple-A Rochester this season, giving up 39 walks (3.62 BB/9), striking out 104 batters (9.65 K/9), and holding hitters to a .215 AVG, with a 3.71 ERA, and a 3.24 FIP in his second full season in Washington’s system.

He was called up to make his MLB debut on August 26th, giving up six hits, two walks, and seven runs in 4 13 IP over which he threw 99 pitches. Going into his between-starts work it didn’t feel right, however.

“He threw about maybe 10-12 pitches, and he didn’t feel right, so [Nats’ Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey told him to stop throwing.”

“So we’ll get him right, we’ll get him going, get him stronger, and we’ll see Cade again.”

Asked why the club wasn’t just shutting him down for the season at this point, rather than risk further damage this year, Martinez said he wanted to give the youngster something to work over the next few weeks before they make final decisions.

“I want him to work, and work for something,” Martinez said, while acknowledging the team might just tell him he’s done for the year in the end.

“I want him to feel like he’s working for something instead of him saying he’s going to work for Spring Training next year.”

“We’ll start with 10 days,” Martinez said. “He’s excited to be here, right? I mean, we’re all excited here. But we’re gonna do what’s right for him and also for our organization.

“So let’s get this cleaned up. Let’s shut him down for two weeks. And then, like I said, we’ll re-evaluate after that.”

If Cavalli’s season does end after his MLB debut, it was quite a year for the starter, who was drafted during 2020’s COVID campaign, worked his way from High-A to Triple-A in his first season as a pro, and got to the majors in his third season in the organization.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“The fact that he came up here and got a start is awesome, and that’s a testament to how hard he’s worked to get better,” Martinez said.

“So that’s the way we’re looking at it, that’s what I told Cade how to look at it. I said, ‘This is just the beginning of a long future, right, for you pitching the big leagues,’ and like I said, he did well.

“‘So let’s just focus on that, get you healthy, and then, like I said, you’re going to pitch many, many games, you’re going to win many, many games for us too,’ and he understands that, and he’s — like I said, he’s about as positive as they come, he really is. He’s a go-getter, and his focus is trying to help us win as many games as possible, whenever that is.”

Looking back, Martinez said, there were no hints of an issue before or during Cavalli’s debut he could point to as warning signs something was wrong. It was after the outing something felt off.

“He felt really good. So it was a surprise to all of us,” Martinez said, “even to him, that he was sore.

“And that’s how he explained it. Just felt a little bit more discomfort than he has in the past. So we told him to stop throwing. And he did and we got an MRI and this is what it revealed.”