Cavalli, Thomas about ready to begin rehab assignments

PHILADELPHIA – From the moment in March 2023 when he learned he needed Tommy John surgery, Cade Cavalli has wondered when he would throw his next pitch for the Nationals.

The right-hander still doesn’t know for sure the date of that triumphant return, but he does know he’s about to finally pitch in a baseball game for the first time since injuring his elbow. And that should go a long way toward determining the date of his official return to the big leagues.

Fourteen months removed from surgery, Cavalli is ready at last to begin a minor league rehab assignment, Nats manager Davey Martinez revealed Friday. The 25-year-old will start a game in the Florida Complex League within the next week, his first game action since March 14, 2023, when his elbow gave out throwing a wayward changeup in a spring training game against the Mets.

“That’s great,” Martinez said. “That’s good news.”

To date, Cavalli had only been cleared to throw off a bullpen mound and then several rounds of live batting practice to teammates. This will be a more significant step, facing hitters from another organization in an official minor league game.

Cavalli is likely to be limited to only two, maybe three innings in his first start. But if everything goes well, he will be cleared to build up his workload with each successive start.

The FCL is the lowest level of the minor leagues, comprising mostly players recently drafted from North America or signed from Latin America. The Rookie-level league season began earlier this month, with the Nationals team based at the organization’s spring training complex in West Palm Beach and playing other teams who train in nearby Florida communities.

Because these are official minor league games, Cavalli’s pending debut will start the clock on his rehab assignment. Pitchers are allowed up to 30 days in the minors before they must either be activated off the injured list or shut down with a new ailment.

Cavalli is likely to move his way up through the Nats’ farm system as his rehab progresses, perhaps getting starts with Single-A Fredericksburg and Wilmington, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester, depending on those teams’ schedules. If he uses up the full 30 days, he would be on track to make his return to a major league mound sometime in mid-to-late June.

That timeline matches up with the one Cavalli himself suggested back in spring training as he first began to throw off a mound.

* Lane Thomas is also about ready to begin a rehab assignment, one that should be shorter than Cavalli’s and allow the outfielder to rejoin the Nationals perhaps within a week to 10 days.

Thomas, who sprained the MCL in his left knee April 23, has been on this road trip with the team, taking full batting practice and fielding drills. He ran bases for the first time Wednesday.

Martinez said Thomas should be ready to begin a rehab assignment at the start of the week, with Tuesday the likely date of his minor league debut. Depending on how he looks and feels, the club could activate him off the IL next weekend, or if not sometime the following week.

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