Mike Rizzo announces Cade Cavalli will undergo Tommy John Surgery

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

The news that was expected on Cade Cavalli‘s elbow was realized this morning when Nationals’ general manager, Mike Rizzo, announced that the right-handed pitcher Cade Cavalli will undergo Tommy John Surgery. The prospect suffered a grade 3 UCL sprain during his last Grapefruit outing. In the press release, Rizzo announced that Cavalli would miss the entire 2023 season as expected with a Grade 3 strain which is a total tear of the UCL. With a total tear revealed in the MRI, it left no guesswork for second opinions, and Cavalli should have the surgery within in the next week. 

The Nationals’ fourth-ranked prospect was expected to be part of the Nationals’ rotation this year until he reached a team-imposed innings limit, but his injury will keep him from pitching in 2023. Catcher Keibert Ruiz immediately saw something wrong with the pitcher’s delivery and signaled for manager Dave Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard to check him out.

“We saw him shaking his arm, so we went out there and talked to him and took him out,” Martinez said after Tuesday’s game. “He said he felt something behind his throwing elbow.”

The 24-year-old was sidelined last August, sustaining a minimal shoulder injury. Cavalli made his MLB debut last season on August 26th but couldn’t make another start for the rest of the 2022 season. Cavalli had thrown a total of 5 2/3 innings over three games during spring training, posting a 1.59 ERA.

Before being called up to the big leagues in 2022, Cavalli pitched for Triple-A Rochester, posting a 3.4 ERA and going 6-4. But it was really the tale of two seasons in 2022 for Cavalli who started off rough, and then found a groove at Rochester with a 1.47 ERA combined for July and August. In fact, in his three starts in July, Cavalli gave up no earned runs. Some thought Cavalli’s issues in Rochester had to do with the cold weather. His road ERA was 1.23 runs better on the road last year.

The Nationals have already suffered a setback in the starting rotation as Stephen Strasburg is still dealing with issues from his thoracic outlet surgery. Chad Kuhl will likely get the nod to fill the void per the Nats’ manager. The rotation will include Patrick Corbin, Josiah Gray, Trevor Williams, MacKenzie Gore, and Kuhl as of now. Signed to a minor league free agent deal, Kuhl entered the Nationals organization in the offseason. He went 6-11 with a 5.72 ERA with the Rockies last season. If you look at FanGraphs, they have Kuhl at a 5.18 ERA for this year. But they weren’t exactly bullish on Cavalli either. Kuhl might cost the Nats about 0.60 to 0.80 and that should equate to three more losses. Truthfully, the Nats were not projected by anyone to make the postseason this year.

Cavalli joined the Washington Nationals in 2020 after the Nationals selected the young pitcher out of Oklahoma in the first round of the draft. He should be back in early 2024 to pitch for the Nats and will be on an innings restriction. That’s how the Nats handle their pitchers coming off of TJ, and Rizzo has a lot of experience in this. If there is a silver lining in an unfortunate injury like this, it was better that this happened early in the year and not mid-season. The Nats expect Cavalli to address the media later today.

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