Cade Cavalli was two weeks away from starting the 2023 season in the Nationals’ rotation, (after debuting in the majors and then dealing with a shoulder injury last summer), when he suffered a grade three sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow which will require Tommy John surgery, and cost him all of the upcoming campaign.
So … Washington’s plan for an upstart starting rotation featuring three young arms they plan to build the future on is on hold.
MacKenzie Gore (24) and Josiah Gray (25) are still expected to start for the club this season, provided both remain healthy, and as manager Davey Martinez noted in his initial comments after Cavalli’s injury, along with Trevor Williams (signed earlier this winter), and Patrick Corbin (who is trying to bounce back from three rough seasons on the mound), they think that they will be able to fill out the rotation with an in-house option at the start.
“Chad Kuhl, right now, is going to get an opportunity to probably start if Cade can’t do it,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, before the official diagnosis announcement on Cavalli’s elbow.
Kuhl, a 30-year-old, six-year veteran put up a 5.72 ERA, a 5.26 FIP, 58 walks, 110 Ks, and a .284/.355/.500 line against in 27 starts and 137 innings pitched for the Colorado Rockies last season, 64 1⁄3 of them in Coors Field (where he had a 5.04 ERA vs a 6.32 ERA in 72 2⁄3 IP on the road last season).
Kuhl signed a minor league deal with the Nationals this past February.
“His breaking ball’s better now, because he’s not in Colorado,” Martinez said (via MASN). “That’s going to help him out. He’s really working on a changeup; he threw a couple really good ones. And he’s got a mix where he can throw a two-seamer and a four-seamer, which we talked about when we got him here. He’s used both, and it’s so far been pretty effective.”
As the skipper told reporters, even with the loss of Cavalli for the season, the Nats think they have enough pitching in-house moving forward.
“Eh, right now, no,” Martinez said when asks if they’d pursue alternatives. “I really feel comfortable right now with the guys we have.”
“We like the depth we have here, but we’re not against looking outside the organization,” GM Mike Rizzo said, as quoted, again, by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, when asked about their im-house options during a presser on the Cavalli news, leaving open the possibility of adding depth.
“If something makes sense to us, of course, we’ll certainly look outside and inside,” Rizzo added.
The club scouted Kuhl over the last few years though and liked what they saw enough to take a flyer on the veteran this season.
“When we saw him pitch previously in Pittsburgh and in Denver, we liked the way he competes,” Rizzo explained.
“He’s a sinker/slider/changeup guy. His changeup really stacks up nicely, analytically. And we brought him in to compete for one of these jobs.”
As Rizzo said, in addition to Kuhl, they do, obviously, have other options in the organization that they can turn to in the aftermath of the disappointing developments with the top prospect in the system, with names like Joan Adon’s, Cory Abbott’s, Jake Irvin’s, and Cole Henry’s mentioned by MASN’s reporter.
“Our cupboard is certainly full with potential,” Rizzo said, “and we’ll see how it shakes out.”