Gray's challenge while rehabbing with seven-pitch arsenal (plus other rehab updates)

Josiah Gray is going to retake the mound for the second start of his rehab assignment tonight with Double-A Harrisburg. The Senators are home against the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) with the injured right-hander starting and scheduled to go about four innings and 60-65 pitches.

Gray landed on the 15-day injured list on April 9 (retroactive to April 6) and made his first rehab start on Sunday with Single-A Fredericksburg. He threw 43 pitches and allowed three runs on three extra-base hits, awarded one walk, hit a batter and struck out two. He told reporters this week in Detroit that he focused mostly on his fastball and cutter.

Tonight, he’ll look to incorporate more of his extensive arsenal.

“I want to see him today to really attack the strike zone,” manager Davey Martinez said before Friday’s opener against the Marlins at Nationals Park. “Get ahead, finish. We always talk about finishing hitters in three pitches or less. I want to see him do that. Plus too, we talked a little bit about how to utilize his breaking ball. I want to see him throw it early in counts for strikes and see if he can do that. But the biggest thing is his mechanics. We got to make sure he hones in on his mechanics. That he's not flying open. I want his misses to be around the plate. So hopefully, he gets there today.”

Gray throws a whopping seven pitches: four-seam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, sweeper, changeup and sinker. While the Nats would like to see him focus on a couple of them, they’re fine with him trying out as many as he wants in his rehab starts. As long as he throws them for strikes.

“He's very unique,” Martinez said. “He's gonna go through all of his pitches. As much as I would rather him just kind of go three or four and hone in on those, he's gonna want to test the sweeper, he's gonna want to test the slider, the cutter, the sinker, the four-seamer. I think there's seven of them. He's gonna want to try them all. But so be it. But whatever he does, I want to make sure that it's around the plate.”

The challenge of throwing so many pitches while rehabbing an injury is regaining the feel for each pitch. And trusting one pitch over another in certain spots, especially ones he doesn’t throw as often.

“It's about getting feel back,” Martinez said. “His first time out, he said the breaking balls, he had no feel for it. So we talked a little bit about them. We watched his bullpen. We're trying to get him a little bit more extended on his breaking balls. I also reminded him that 'When your breaking ball doesn't work, your changeup actually looks pretty good right now. You'll get extended on your changeup a little bit more and also your fastball. So go back to that and see if you can revert to doing the same thing that you're doing with your breaking pitches.' So let's see how he does tonight.”

* Cade Cavalli will throw his next live batting practice tomorrow at Nationals Park.

The right-hander, still in the final stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery, made three minor league rehab starts, but the club halted his official rehab assignment to give him time to work on mechanics before restarting it. Cavalli threw off a bullpen mound Wednesday in Detroit while looking to better utilize his lower half.

“Cade is gonna just let it go a little bit,” Martinez said. “Just want to see his mechanics, clean mechanics. Throw his fastballs, work on some breaking pitches. But if that goes well, we'll get him back out and get him in the game again.”

The Nats still aren’t prepared to put a timeline on when Cavalli will restart his rehab assignment. At least not until after tomorrow’s session.

“We'll see how it goes tomorrow, but it should be pretty soon,” the skipper said. “He's feeling good. I watched him throw a bullpen the other day. He was 95-98 mph very easy. So he feels good.”

* Jose A. Ferrer will face live hitters for the first time on Monday while recovering from the lat strain that shut him down during spring training in March. The lefty reliever started the season on the 60-day injured list.

“Ferrer is just all fastballs,” Martinez said. “He's gonna go out and throw just mainly fastballs, probably 15-20 pitches. Just throw strike one. We told him to just throw the ball over the plate.”

Ferrer could be another much-needed left-handed weapon out of the bullpen after a strong rookie season. Though his ERA inflated to 5.03 over his last four outings of 2023, he had 3.56 ERA over his first 33 appearances.

* Joey Gallo was scheduled to get an MRI on his left hamstring, which he strained in Detroit to put him on the 10-day IL, but the Nats did not have the results yet. They should have them after tonight’s game.

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