Gray to begin rehab assignment on Sunday, Cavalli's next start TBD

Confirmed: Josiah Gray will begin his long-awaited rehab assignment on Sunday with Single-A Fredericksburg.

After being cleared earlier this week to pitch in a competitive game for the first time in almost two months, the Nationals have finally locked down the date and time for the right-hander to retake the hill.

The FredNats take on the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (White Sox) at Virginia Credit Union Stadium at 1:35 p.m. Gray will look to complete about three innings.

“We're looking for three ups, 50-55 pitches,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “If we get through that, that would be a good day for him. Then what we want to do is bring him back here after that. Let him go through his workouts here. And if everything goes well, the next one will probably be in Harrisburg. And then we'll go from there.”

Gray landed on the 15-day injured list on April 9 (retroactive to April 6) with a right elbow/forearm flexor strain. He had only made two starts to that point, giving up 15 hits, 13 runs and five walks with nine strikeouts over 8 ⅓ innings.

But he has slowly built up his arm over the last several weeks while pitching in simulated games. His previous one was on Tuesday, when he threw 65 pitches over three innings.

“His last live (BP) was really good. His velo was up to 93 (mph),” Martinez said. “So his mechanics were good. Everything was good. He came out of it feeling really good. So I think it's time he goes out and starts competing against other teams. And really get him back into the rotation. We feel like he's got to go out and pitch every five days. Get him built up and get him ready to go.”

Gray was the Nationals’ lone All-Star last summer, pitching in a breakout year and earning himself the honor of being the Opening Day starter this year. But what has he learned while being sidelined for the past two months?

“For me, it was all about one, getting him healthy was the biggest thing,” the skipper said. “We wanted to make sure that when he came back, he's 100 percent healthy and he doesn't have any arm issues. We worked on his mechanics a little bit. Cleaned some of his stuff up with his direction. And like I said, he looked good the other day.”

While beginning his rehab assignment is a big step, the Nationals still aren’t putting a timetable on his return nor are they committing to the number of rehab starts he’ll make. But he is expected back in the starting rotation soon and that’s what matters.

“We're gonna treat each outing differently,” Martinez said. “We're gonna make sure he gets through one outing, and we'll talk to him and see how he feels. Then we'll get to the next one. I'm still not gonna put a timetable on when he should be back. But if everything goes well, hopefully, he'll be back soon.”

On the other hand, Cade Cavalli’s return to the rotation remains in question.

The right-hander recovering from Tommy John surgery started his own rehab assignment on May 20, but has only made three starts in the three weeks since.

Cavalli has been with the Nationals in D.C. all week and will travel with them next week to Detroit. But the next steps in his rehab will be bullpen sessions and maybe a live BP, instead of another start in an actual game.

“He's gonna go with us on the trip,” Martinez said. “He's gonna throw a bullpen. We want to keep eyes on him. And then after that, we'll see where we go. I might want him to throw a live BP with us. And then after that, we'll see what happens. Like I said, this Tommy John thing is not like, you know, we want to make sure that he's gonna be OK. He's doing fine, but it's just part of it.”

The good news: Cavalli has not suffered any kind of setback and the Nationals are not concerned about the time in between rehab starts.

“No,” Martinez said. “Like I said, I still feel like we're still a little bit ahead of the game. We really are. Honestly, I didn't really foresee him pitching until July. So he's done really well.”

* Local social media influence Anthony Polcari (aka Tony P in D.C.) attended batting practice and interviewed some Nationals players, including Jacob Young and Nasim Nuñez.

But the most excited player to meet him was Trevor Williams, who also brought MacKenzie Gore out from the clubhouse.

After a couple of questions, Williams joined the online celebrity in doing his signature “arm roll,” which he does in his videos. Gore did the same thing, but struggled more with the arm roll.

Williams also got Tony P to sign a small bottle of garlic powder, which apparently is a part of his bit.

* Flo Rida is playing a postgame concert tonight at Nationals Park as part of the Nats Summer Concert Series. The Nationals had his playlist playing on the overhead speakers in the clubhouse this afternoon in preparation. Folks on the beat and in the communications department were also getting into it.

What are your top Flo Rida bangers? I want to know in the comments!

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