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Nationals: Cade Cavalli suffers torn UCL; headed for Tommy John surgery

The news was as bad as expected and Cade Cavalli is headed for Tommy John surgery…

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

Cade Cavalli averaged 96 MPH with his fastball, which got up to 97.4, and got a total of four swing and six called strikes with the pitch he threw 40% of the time against the New York Mets on Tuesday, and he mixed in his curve (38%), for two swinging and two called strikes on the 15 he threw, his slider (15%), and changeup (8%), but after the third of three changeups he threw, the 24-year-old, 2020 1st Round pick reacted in a way that drew the attention of his catcher, manager, and the team’s trainer.

“We saw him shaking his arm, so we went out there and talked to him and took him out,” Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez told reporters, as quoted by’s Jessica Camerato, after Washington’s Grapefruit League game on Tuesday.

“He said he felt something behind his throwing elbow.”

“I saw as soon as he threw the last pitch, he was doing something different with his arm,” Nationals’ catcher Keibert Ruiz said when he was asked what he’d seen. “That’s why we called time and Davey and the trainer [Paul Lessard] went there. I hope everything will be fine, and I feel bad for him and for us. Obviously, it’s bad news, but we’ve just got to pray for him and hope everything’s good.”

Martinez did not want to jump to any conclusions before the young starter went for an MRI and got the results, but there was obviously concern for the top pitching prospect in the organization.

He tried to empathize with the pitcher as well while they wait to find out what it is he felt behind his elbow.

“He was trying to stay positive,” Martinez said. “I told him, ‘Keep your head up. You don’t know. Wait until we take some pictures of that thing, and then we’ll go from there.’”

“I’m not going to assume anything,” the skipper added, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, “… because these things could be … you don’t know what it’s going to be. But we’re going to get an MRI on him tomorrow, and we’ll see what’s going on.”

There was no update on Wednesday, but Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo provided the following press release on Thursday morning:

“During the third inning of our game against the New York Mets on Tuesday, right-handed pitcher Cade Cavalli sustained a right elbow injury. An MRI has revealed that he has a grade three sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament which will require Tommy John surgery.

“While Cade will not pitch in 2023, he continues to be a very important part of our franchise’s future and we look forward to having him back on the mound.

“We will provide an update on his surgery when it is available.”

While Cavalli’s future is uncertain now, the Nationals were necessarily moving forward with their plans for the starting rotation, with Martinez explaining they would give veteran righty Chad Kuhl a shot at claiming a spot in Cavalli’s absence.

“Chad Kuhl, right now, is going to get an opportunity,” Martinez said, as quoted on

Asked if he thought the club might have to look outside the organization for help, Martinez said he felt there sufficient arms in-house to fill the void.

“Eh, right now, no,” Martinez said. “I really feel comfortable right now with the guys we have.”

Here’s what Rizzo and Cavalli had to say on Thursday after the official diagnosis announcement from the GM: