Cavalli determined to return this year, Espino to start Thursday

Cade Cavalli officially was placed on the 15-day injured list this afternoon with right shoulder inflammation, an ailment the Nationals rookie insisted he intends to return from before season’s end.

“I’m not going to be shutting it down completely,” he said. “We’ve got something to work forward to. There’s still some season left. That’s where my head’s at. I want to go compete again this year for this club. I’m very positive, and I think it’s really good.”

Cavalli said he woke up Saturday morning feeling “some abnormal soreness” following his major league debut the previous night. He attempted to play catch that afternoon as planned, but after about 10 throws with no improvement in his condition he informed the training staff what was going on. He underwent an MRI on Sunday which revealed inflammation of his shoulder capsule, but no damage to his rotator cuff or labrum.

Manager Davey Martinez said the 24-year-old right-hander will be shut down for two weeks, after which the club will decide how to proceed. Cavalli is cleared to do everything but throw during this period of time, and he went through rigorous workouts focused on his legs and his back the last two days.

Even in a best-case scenario, there doesn’t seem to be much time for Cavalli to make it back to start before the season ends five weeks from today. But Martinez wants him to stay busy and proceed with a mindset that he will pitch by then, and Cavalli himself is adamant that’s what he intends to do, not shut down until 2023.

“I just want to be out there. So that’s where my head’s at, to get back,” he said. “And obviously you’ve got to be smart and take care of, not rush things and push. But I want to be back out there bad. I never let my mind go there, where I’m shut down.”

Cavalli will travel with the Nationals throughout their upcoming 10-game trip to New York, St. Louis and Philadelphia, working with the major league training staff and pick the brains of the team’s more experienced pitchers.

“I want him to participate in all activities,” Martinez said. “I want him to sit in for the pitchers’ meetings. I want him to get accustomed to doing his daily routine, as if he was pitching, and then we’ll go from there. … I want him to keep doing what he’s doing right now. And when he’s able to start throwing again, we’ll put him on a throwing program.”

The Nationals recalled Cory Abbott from Triple-A Rochester to take Cavalli’s roster spot, but the right-hander won’t take his spot in the rotation for now. Abbott instead will pitch out of the bullpen if needed tonight, a distinct possibility after Erick Fedde lasted only 2 2/3 innings in Tuesday night’s series opener.

Paolo Espino will now start Thursday afternoon against the A’s, on normal rest. Josiah Gray will start Friday night at the Mets, with the club’s rotation plans for the rest of the weekend series at Citi Field still to be determined.

The Nats also will be allowed to add two players to their active roster Thursday, with all clubs going up to 28 active players for September. New league rules restrict only one additional pitcher to be added, and the team is still deciding which member of Rochester’s staff will get the call. Martinez did say Tres Barrera will come up to be their third catcher, which also opens the door for Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams to get some opportunities to DH (and in Adams’ case, possibly to play first base).

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