Cavalli to start Thursday vs. A's, Gray to return at Mets

Cade Cavalli will make his next start for the Nationals on Thursday afternoon, giving the organization’s top pitching prospect two home outings to begin his career before he makes his road debut.

Cavalli is slated to start the finale of a three-game series against the Athletics, with Erick Fedde and Aníbal Sánchez pitching Tuesday and Wednesday nights, respectively.

The 24-year-old right-hander made his major league debut Friday against the Reds, struggling with grip issues on a hot and muggy D.C. evening en route to seven runs allowed over 4 1/3 innings and 99 pitches. He’ll now get a chance to face another rebuilding club in the A’s, who currently own the second-worst record in baseball (ahead of only the Nationals).

Cavalli will be pitching on five days’ rest, just as he did most of the time this season at Triple-A Rochester. The Nationals are going to attempt to continue giving him an extra day of rest as much as possible over the season’s final month, taking advantage of scheduled off-days of their schedule for both Cavalli and Josiah Gray.

“Between him and JoJo, we’re definitely going to try to keep those guys limited a little bit in the next month,” manager Davey Martinez said. “But we definitely want to see him pitch up here. So he’ll pitch Thursday, and then we’ll have some days off coming up. We’ll see how we’re going to work those two guys. We might give them a couple extra days in between.”

The Nationals have been watching Cavalli’s workload throughout the season. At the moment, he’s totaled 101 1/3 innings between Rochester and Washington after throwing 123 1/3 innings last year at three different levels of the minor leagues.

There is no plan to shut Cavalli down completely; the team wants him to finish out the season pitching. But when there are opportunities to give him extra days off, they plan to take advantage of them.

Gray, meanwhile, is scheduled to make his next start over the weekend against the Mets in New York. The Nationals skipped over his last turn in the rotation as they try to spread out the right-hander’s innings to ensure he’s able to finish the season without being shut down.

Gray is currently at 123 1/3 total innings in his first full big league season. His career high as a professional is 130, which he totaled in 2019 as a member of the Dodgers organization.

“These guys, we view them as being here for a very long time, and this is just part of the process,” Martinez said. “That’s how I talk to them. Josiah, he competes. We all know he loves being out there every five days. But I think he understands where he’s at. And for the most part, we’re trying to keep these guys healthy for the future. … With these young guys, it’s almost like a 20 percent increase in innings per year. That’s kind of where we’re at.”

MacKenzie Gore, meanwhile, emerged from Saturday’s bullpen session feeling strong. The left-hander, one of the Nationals’ top acquisitions from the Padres in this month’s Juan Soto-Josh Bell trade, is scheduled to throw another time off the mound in a couple of days, after which the club will devise a plan to ramp him up and ultimately get him ready to finish the season in the big league rotation.

Gore has been on the 15-day injured list with left elbow inflammation since July 26, a week before the trade occurred.

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