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Washington Nationals’ Cade Cavalli exits start with elbow issue; headed for MRI

Yeah, this is not how Cade Cavalli or the Nationals wanted his outing vs the Mets to go...

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York Mets Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The Context Part:

[ed. note - “This is how we started our planned article on Cade Cavalli’s start vs the New York Mets on Tuesday, trying to give some context for where he was at going into the outing as he got ready for the start of the 2023 campaign. Cavalli, 24, was expected to be in the Washington Nationals’ rotation this season, after debuting (and then injuring his shoulder), late last year, but he left yesterday’s start with an elbow issue. More on that follows...”]

Cade Cavalli struck out six in his start last week against Israel’s WBC team, including four of the last five batters the 24-year-old, 2020 1st round pick faced in a 51-pitch outing in the exhibition game, but the righty was more concerned with mistakes he made in the outing than the strikeouts he collected when he spoke with reporters after the outing.

A tough stretch in the second inning in which he gave up three singles and the one run he allowed in the start stood out for Cavalli.

“I got some outs,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “Kept it to just one run. Just tried to minimize damage whenever I put myself into that little jam.”

The third single, which drove in the run, was a two-out hit, on an 0-2 offering which Cavalli left in the middle of the zone on a pitch he wanted to get up.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York Mets Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

“I wanted to elevate it, and I just left it middle,” Cavalli said.

“I made the mistake and paid for it. Gotta get it up.”

The fact he was concerned with trying to correct the mistakes he made in the start was, his manager said, an insight into the kind of competitor Cavalli is when on the mound.

“This is something he’s going to learn,” Davey Martinez said.

“But I love him, because he’s eager to learn and he’s eager to get better. You know what you’re going to get.

“He’s going to be aggressive, he’s going to attack the zone and that’s awesome.”

There are going to be mistakes along the way as Cavalli grows on the job, but that is all part of the process as the club tries to develop their top pitching prospect.

“We’re going to have some growth moments with him, but I love the way he goes out and attacks,” the Nats’ skipper explained. “He understands the game. He understands what he needs to do.”

Going up against the New York Mets in Grapefruit League action on Tuesday, Cavalli …

Not A Scout(ing) Report:

[ed. note - “It was a rare opportunity this spring to watch the Nationals in Grapefruit League action, and a chance to see Cavalli build on the previous outing described above, so we did try to watch him closely to see how was doing in his development and his attempts to work on what he didn’t like last time out, and take notes for the article on his start...”]

1st: 13-pitch first, 11 strikes, hit 97 MPH on four-seamer, averaged 96+, started ahead 0-2 on all three batters in a quick, efficient inning with 7 of 13 pitches FBs (54%).

2nd: Popped up Daniel Vogelbach with 1-2 pitch after falling behind 1-0 in first AB. Walked Mark Cahna after falling behind 2-1, and getting gifted a strike when hitter wasn’t ready when clock got down to :08; got up 0-2 on Luis Guillorme, high, uncompetitive FB; got a weak grounder with over-the-top curveball, words with Guillorme as he ran off the field. Met wasn’t happy with what he saw as a quick pitch, apparently. Got up on Mark Vientos with curveball, 0-1, got to 0-2 with a changeup (90 MPH), got him swinging with a curve in the dirt outside for out No. 3. 1st strikeout. Up to 12 curves on the day after second (43%), more curveballs than fastballs to that point.

3rd: Got grounder with a 1-2 curveball after throwing a few fastballs Brett Baty fouled off. Dropped 1-1 curve in on Mets’ catcher Francisco Alvarez, groundout to third with a changeup, up to [40]* pitches with two outs. Curve to get up 0-1 on Brandon Nimmo, missed with curveball, 1-1, then high with fastball, 2-1, and he came up hurt after fastball... on [43rd]* pitch. Cavalli threw it up and away, reacted oddly enough that Nimmo stopped & stared and even motioned to catcher Keibert Ruiz in a “check on your boy” sort of way, then Ruiz called to the dugout and manager Davey Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard came out to the mound for a brief chat after which Cavalli was lifted.

[ed. note - “ * = SNY had Cavalli up to 43 pitches before he threw the final pitch on which he apparently got injured, which is why there is a discrepancy between what we tweeted out & what (43) and Baseball Savant (40) had as the final pitch count.”]

Aftermath (AKA DOOOOOOM Section):

“We saw him shaking his arm, so we went out there and talked to him and took him out,” manager Dave Martinez said, as quoted by’s Jessica Camerato. “He said he felt something behind his throwing elbow.”

Cavalli asked his manager to let him throw another pitch to test the elbow, but the skipper wasn’t having it.

“He said, ‘Let me throw a pitch,’” Martinez said. “I said, ‘Absolutely not. Come on. We’ll get you checked out and see what’s going on and then get you back on as soon as we can.’”

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York Mets Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Martinez didn’t want to speculate on anything until Cavalli gets an MRI today, but it was not a positive way to end an outing in which the pitcher, according to catcher Keibert Ruiz, was to that point, “... the best I’ve seen him since I’ve known him.”

It’s too early to speculate about such things, really, but Martinez was asked about filling out the rotation if Cavalli misses any significant time.

“I think we have enough guys in camp that could fill the void, that are actually getting stretched out,” Martinez explained, before he added that he was, “... not going to do anything hasty until we get [Cavalli] checked out.”