Does Abbott merit more opportunities next year?

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PLAYER REVIEW: CORY ABBOTT

Age on opening day 2023: 27

How acquired: Claimed off waivers from Giants, May 2022

MLB service time: 83 days

2022 salary: $700,000

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Nats clinch league's worst record with loss to Mets (updated)

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NEW YORK – The Nationals have owned the worst record in baseball throughout the vast majority of this season. And this evening, they officially ensured they will end the season with the worst record in baseball.

A 4-2 loss to the Mets in the opener of a scheduled doubleheader in the rain and wind at Citi Field was the Nationals’ 105th of the season. The Athletics cannot finish with more than 104 losses.

For decades, that indignity would’ve guaranteed the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft. But in an attempt to discourage teams from openly tanking, Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Players Association instituted a draft lottery, giving every team that doesn’t make the playoffs an opportunity to pick first.

The Nationals will have a better chance than most: 16.5 percent, same as the teams that finish with the second- and third-worst records. They are guaranteed only of a top-seven pick.

Consider it one final downer to this season full of downers, which wraps up Wednesday against the playoff-bound Mets, still mathematically able to win the National League East until either they lose a game or the Braves win one.

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Game 160 lineups: Nats at Mets (take two)

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NEW YORK – Well, guess we’re going to try to do this yet again. Even though the weather here continues to be miserable.

The Nationals and Mets couldn’t open their season-ending series as planned Monday night, so they’ll try to not only play that game today, but then another game as well. It’s a straight doubleheader, beginning at 4:10 p.m., with only 30 minutes between games. The problem, as it’s been for days, is that it continues to rain, the wind continues to howl and there’s no end in sight.

But press on they will, and if they can play it’ll be the same pitching matchup that was planned for Monday night: Cory Abbott for the Nats, Carlos Carrasco for the Mets. Keep in mind: The Mets still technically can win the NL East, but only if they win three games over the Nationals while the Braves (who lost Monday night) lose two more to the Marlins.

That’s why, for now, they have to proceed as if it’s necessary to play all three games of this series. If that changes, perhaps the urgency to get these games in will disappear.

One roster note: Reliever Reed Garrett, who joined the Nationals on this trip in case his services were needed, has been activated to serve as the 29th man for the doubleheader. He's available out of the bullpen for both games.

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Would Abbott and Espino pitch well in tandem?

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NEW YORK – If the Nationals are able to play both of today’s newly scheduled doubleheader games against the Mets – and based on the forecast, that’s a big if – they will be sending Cory Abbott to the mound to start Game 1 and Paolo Espino to start Game 2.

And if history repeats itself, Abbott and Espino are likely to pitch very well for two or three innings, then struggle mightily after that.

The right-handers have had no trouble retiring opposing hitters once per game this season. Abbott, when facing a hitter for the first time within a game (either as a starter or reliever) has held the opposition to a miniscule .165 batting average and .576 OPS. Espino’s numbers in the same situation: a .235 batting average and .645 OPS.

The problems arise when they have to face those same hitters a second or third time. In those situations, opponents are batting .324 with a 1.133 OPS against Abbott and .340 with a .958 OPS against Espino.

At the moment, there’s not much the Nationals can do about it. They’ve needed both Abbott and Espino to start down the stretch, and Davey Martinez has no choice but to try to get as many innings as he can out of each.

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Game 160 lineups: Nats at Mets

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NEW YORK – You’ll never guess what the weather’s going to be like the next three days here at Citi Field! It’s like somebody purposely decided to have a massive storm follow the Nationals up the East Coast, because just as soon as things cleared up in D.C., the remnants of Hurricane Ian have made their way to New York, where tonight the Nats and Mets are supposed to open the final series of the season.

For now, these games matter. But they may not matter nearly as much as we thought they would after the Braves swept the Mets in Atlanta over the weekend, reducing their magic number to clinch the National League East to one. In other words, all it will take is one Braves win over the Marlins or one Nationals win over the Mets to end the division race and leave New York as the top wild card participant instead.

New York used up its big three starters in Atlanta, so it’s Carlos Carrasco here tonight. The Nats hit him around pretty good last month, knocking him out in the third inning after scoring five runs (only one earned) on six hits. They had far less success in three previous games against Carrasco earlier in the season.

Cory Abbott is tonight’s starter for the Nationals, getting one last chance to leave a positive impression heading into the winter. It’s been a struggle for the right-hander, who has completed more than five innings only once in eight starts. The good news: He has yet to surrender a run to the Mets in seven total innings.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where:
Citi Field

Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 55 degrees, wind 17 mph in from center field

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Nats squander chances in 4-3 loss to Orioles (updated)

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The way they jumped out to an early lead, this felt like a night that would see the Nationals keep putting runners on base and keep threatening to add to that lead. Turns out they wouldn’t score again, and the one time they seriously threatened, their rookie shortstop ran himself out of the inning.

This 4-3 loss to the Orioles was frustrating, though for different reasons than many previous losses were. There was no bullpen meltdown. There was no critical defensive mistake. There was no disastrous outing by the starting pitcher.

Instead, this one-run loss saw the Nationals lineup go cold after the third inning, then botch its last best chance to tie the game when CJ Abrams tried to advance to third base on a ground ball right in front of him to kill a sixth-inning rally.

"He's young and wanting to get to third base, knew he had to get to third base," manager Davey Martinez said. "But that situation, you've got to see the ball through. You've got to get back to second and see what happens. It's just a young mistake. He knew right away: He should've gone back."

Abrams, whose play of late has mostly been sensational, led off the inning with a double to the gap in left-center, knocking Baltimore starter Dean Kremer from the game. But when reliever Dillon Tate immediately got Israel Pineda to hit a sharp grounder to short, Abams took off for third, an ill-advised gamble.

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Game 142 lineups: Nats vs. Orioles

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And we’re back at Nationals Park for the first time in 12 days. The Nats return to town following a long, three-city road trip that included series wins at New York and St. Louis but then a sweep in Philadelphia, which left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. Now they begin a five-game homestand against the Orioles and Marlins as the final 21-game stretch of the season arrives.

The two interleague rivals split their two-game series at Camden Yards in June, one of those a rain-shorted loss. At that point, the Orioles were just starting to push their way into the American League postseason picture. They remain in the mix now, but they’ve taken a few steps back in the last week and enter this week 5 1/2 games behind the Rays for the final wild card berth.

Cory Abbott makes the start tonight as the Nationals give Josiah Gray and Paolo Espino extra rest before their next starts. The right-hander has done a solid-if-unspectacular job as a swingman, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen. We’ll see how he does tonight against an emerging Baltimore lineup.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 76 degrees, wind 7 mph out to right field

NATIONALS
CF Lane Thomas
RF Joey Meneses
1B Luke Voit
2B Luis García
DH Nelson Cruz
LF Alex Call
SS CJ Abrams
C Israel Pineda
3B Ildemaro Vargas

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After Nats take late lead, Finnegan gives it back in ninth (updated)

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ST LOUIS – Just when a sleepy Nationals lineup came through with an inspired rally to take a seemingly comfortable late lead over the Cardinals, a rusty closer managed to turn what should've been an uplifting victory tonight into a crushing defeat.

Handed a four-run lead for the bottom of the ninth at Busch Stadium, Kyle Finnegan promptly gave up five runs to hand his team a 6-5 loss, Tommy Edman's two-run double to deep left field just off a diving Alex Call's glove the final blow that left what remained of a crowd of 34,715 delirious and left the Nats devastated.

"Hey, when you close games, some days go well, some don't," manager Davey Martinez said. "The biggest thing for me is you've got to come in there, up four runs, and you've got to pound the strike zone. Walks are going to kill you."

Finnegan hadn't pitched in six days even though the Nationals had won three times on this road trip, because all of those wins were lopsided. Martinez summoned him tonight in a non-save situation simply because he needed the work. It backfired.

"I didn't feel rusty," Finnegan insisted. "I just couldn't make the pitch when I needed to. The stuff was getting a little too much of the plate, and they were doing their job. They were hitting mistakes and doing damage with it. I just wasn't able to make a pitch to get us out of it tonight."

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Game 137 lineups: Nats at Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS – The Nationals look to get back on the winning track tonight after seeing their three-game streak end Tuesday night in a pretty lackluster, 4-1 loss to the Cardinals. They’ll certainly need to hit more than that if they want to win this one, and they’ll have a few different names in the lineup as they attempt to do so.

Keibert Ruiz finally gets his long-awaited day off after starting five games in a row. That means Riley Adams is catching and batting eighth. CJ Abrams also gets the night off, somewhat surprisingly. That bumps Ildemaro Vargas to shortstop and opens up third base for César Hernández. (You’ll be pleased to know Nelson Cruz is still in there, batting cleanup.)

Cory Abbott makes this start as the sixth member of the rotation this turn around. It’s the right-hander’s fifth start and 11th overall pitching appearance this season, and he’s mostly given the Nationals a chance when he’s been out there. He’ll face a good test tonight in the Cardinals lineup.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Where:
Busch Stadium

Gametime: 7:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Mostly clear, 78 degrees, wind 7 mph in from center field

NATIONALS
CF Lane Thomas
RF Joey Meneses
1B Luke Voit
DH Nelson Cruz
2B Luis García
3B Cesar Hernandez
SS Ildemaro Vargas
C Riley Adams
CF Victor Robles

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Gore about ready to face live hitters in simulated game

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NEW YORK – MacKenzie Gore’s path toward pitching for the Nationals before season’s end became clearer today when the rehabbing left-hander took what should be his final step before he’s cleared to face live hitters.

Gore threw a bullpen session this afternoon at Citi Field, the third time he’s thrown off a mound as he returns from elbow inflammation. Provided he emerges from this latest session with no setbacks, he’ll now be slated to pitch a simulated game against teammates next week in St. Louis, according to manager Davey Martinez.

That 50-pitch simulated game would offer Gore his first opportunity to face live hitters since his July 25 outing for the Padres, after which he was placed on the 15-day injured list with elbow inflammation. The Nationals acquired the 23-year-old in last month’s Juan Soto-Josh Bell blockbuster and inherited his rehab program.

All along, the club’s intention has been to get Gore ready to pitch in a major league game before season’s end.

“Our goal, if everything goes well, is to get him to start a game here and see how he feels after that,” Martinez said. “Hopefully everything goes well, and we know when wintertime comes, he could just go on his regular program and get ready for spring training.”

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Cavalli determined to return this year, Espino to start Thursday

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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.

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Cavalli joining Nats just as rotation begins to improve

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The Nationals waited 4 1/2 months for Cade Cavalli to arrive from Triple-A and finally provide a much-needed big arm to a rotation that has struggled all year long.

Now that the hard-throwing right-hander is on his way to D.C. to make his highly anticipated major league debut, here’s the irony: The Nats rotation is currently in the middle of its best stretch of the season.

During their just-completed, six-game road trip to San Diego and Seattle, Nationals starters more than held their own against a couple of playoff contenders. They collectively posted a 2.79 ERA, holding opponents to nine total runs across 29 innings. Go back over their last 14 games, and that ERA is still a respectable 3.91 (nearly two runs better than the group’s worst-in-the-majors 5.89 mark for the entire season).

There’s been so much improvement, the Nats could afford to demote Cory Abbott (who allowed two runs over six innings in his most recent start), first to the bullpen and then to Triple-A following Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Mariners. And they might also end up moving Paolo Espino to the bullpen after he starts Saturday, no matter the result, because they’ll have five other starters with Cavalli joining the mix.

Combine that kind of competent work from the rotation with the continued strong performance of the bullpen (2.02 ERA since Aug. 13) and you get the best sustained period of pitching the Nationals have had all year.

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Clippard designated for assignment as Abbott moves to bullpen

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SEATTLE – Needing to clear a spot on their pitching staff for returning starter Erick Fedde, the Nationals opted to shift Cory Abbott to the bullpen and designate Tyler Clippard for assignment, likely ending the popular veteran’s second stint with the organization on a sour note.

Clippard could potentially return to Triple-A Rochester if he clears waivers, but manager Davey Martinez suggested the move was made in part to give the 37-year-old more time to catch on with another franchise and finish out the season.

The Nationals’ all-time leader in appearances with 418, Clippard returned to the organization this spring more than seven years after he last pitched for them. A stalwart of their bullpen from 2008-14, he went on to have a long career as one of baseball’s most reliable and durable relievers while pitching for 10 different teams.

The Nats hoped to rekindle some old magic and enjoy a feel-good story when they signed Clippard to a minor league deal in March, but it didn’t come close to working out as hoped. After spending three months performing well at Rochester, he finally was called up in mid-July but made only one appearance before landing on the injured list with a groin strain. He returned healthy two weeks ago but was scored upon in two of his three outings while seeing very little action.

Clippard pitched a scoreless inning during Saturday’s 2-1 loss in San Diego, and that proved to be his final appearance before he was informed of the news today in Seattle.

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Fedde to replace Abbott in rotation, García going on rehab

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SAN DIEGO – Erick Fedde will come off the injured list and start Tuesday night in Seattle, with Cory Abbott moving to the bullpen for now as the Nationals make the first of several expected changes to their rotation heading into the season’s final month.

Fedde, out since July 25 with right shoulder inflammation, emerged from Wednesday’s rehab start for Triple-A Rochester and a subsequent bullpen session here at Petco Park with no issues and is cleared to come off the 15-day IL for the Nats' series opener against the Mariners.

“Fedde is ready,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He said he felt good, so he’ll start on Tuesday.”

The right-hander’s return necessitates the removal of someone from the current rotation. Martinez said for now that will be Abbott, who is available out of the bullpen for this afternoon’s game against the Padres and could either remain in a relief role moving forward or be optioned to Triple-A once Fedde is officially activated.

Abbott has made four starts for the Nats this month, going 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA, though he has allowed three or fewer runs in three of the four outings. He made three previous relief appearances this summer.

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Nats salute Soto and Bell, then get trounced by Padres (updated)

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First came the video tribute, with plenty of highlights of Juan Soto and Josh Bell in Nationals uniforms, plus a taped message from Soto himself to D.C. fans, prompting a big round of applause. Then came the announcement of the Padres’ starting lineup, featuring Soto batting second and Bell batting fourth, each of them receiving more applause.

Then came the top of the first, with Soto stepping to the plate to a standing ovation, taking off his helmet and saluting the crowd. Two batters later, Bell got the same treatment and responded in kind.

It all made for a heartfelt reunion of former players returning to South Capitol Street, even if they were traded away only 10 days ago. And then ultimately yet another frustrating night of baseball for the Nationals and their fans, who watched as Soto, Bell and the Padres beat them 10-5 in a game that only looked somewhat close because of a bottom-of-the-ninth rally.

"You never realize it until you're there," Soto said of the emotions he felt throughout the game. "When I stepped to the plate and saw all my teammates and everybody's clapping, it was a pretty cool moment."

Emotional as they both were to leave the Nats at the trade deadline, the two sluggers were equally excited to join a San Diego club in the thick of a pennant race. Soto went so far as to verbalize that before the game, saying: “When you’re on a winning team, the level of your game just goes higher and higher.”

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Robles sits with hamstring cramp, rotation set for Mets series

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Victor Robles is out of the Nationals' lineup for today’s series finale against the Cardinals after his left hamstring cramped during the eighth inning of Saturday night’s 7-6 victory.

Robles hurt himself tracking down Brendan Donovan’s deep flyball to center field for the final out of the top of the eighth, a key play that maintained the Nats’ one-run lead after St. Louis loaded the bases earlier in the inning.

Due up third in the bottom of that inning, Robles was late to get to the plate and then quickly struck out, not looking comfortable in the process. Manager Davey Martinez then decided to remove him from the game, shifting Lane Thomas to center field and inserting utilityman Ehire Adrianza in left field for the top of the ninth.

“He’s OK,” Martinez said. “When I had to take him out of the game yesterday, I figured I’d give him a day (off) today. When he cramps up like that, it knots up pretty good. I talked to him last night and told him: ‘I’m just going to give you a day and get that right.’ ”

It was an eventful game for Robles, who hit his fourth homer of the season (his second in a week), made a diving catch in deep left-center field and also made an ill-advised throw only moments before he was injured.

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Fedde goes on IL, Abbott could take rotation spot

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The Nationals placed Erick Fedde on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation this afternoon, creating a ripple effect on the rest of their rotation as Tuesday’s trade deadline approaches.

Fedde, who was supposed to start tonight against the Cardinals, instead went on the IL (retroactive to July 27) after complaining of a sore shoulder following his last start, though he doesn’t believe the issue is serious enough to sideline him for long.

Paolo Espino, originally listed as Sunday’s starter, will pitch tonight instead, though he remains on full rest because of Thursday’s off-day for the team. Josiah Gray and Patrick Corbin also are having their starts bumped up a day, with Gray now slated to pitch Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals and Corbin going Monday against the Mets.

That leaves a rotation hole for Tuesday, with a starter needed to face the Mets. Manager Davey Martinez said that assignment will go to Cory Abbott, who was recalled from Triple-A Rochester today, provided the right-hander isn’t needed out of the bullpen tonight.

The injury to Fedde (who is 5-7 with a 4.95 ERA in 19 starts) comes after he threw 99 pitches in only 4 2/3 innings Sunday at Arizona, after which he experienced shoulder soreness.

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Harvey optioned to Triple-A, Cruz sits again

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Needing fresh arms to get them through today’s first-half finale, the Nationals called up Cory Abbott from Triple-A and optioned Hunter Harvey to Rochester.

Abbott, who has been a starter in the minors, is available to pitch multiple innings in relief this afternoon, which is already a bullpen game. Erasmo Ramirez will start, going two or three innings before manager Davey Martinez begins summoning a parade of other relievers the rest of the game.

Harvey’s demotion has less to do with performance and more to do with the fact he still has options and his recent lengthy stint on the injured list with a pronator strain in his forearm. The right-hander gave up two runs while throwing 28 pitches during Saturday’s loss to the Braves, the first time he’s been scored upon in seven big league appearances this season (sandwiched around the IL stint).

“He’s been a guy that’s been injured,” Martinez said. “He’s got four days off (the All-Star break) down there coming up. We’re just going to give him a little breather and get him back. We want him to pitch multiple innings, work on his breaking ball a little bit more, and then we’ll get him back up here as soon as we can.”

The Nationals found themselves in this predicament due to Tuesday’s rainout against the Mariners. That created a doubleheader Wednesday, and thus a stretch of six games in five days to close out the season’s first half.

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Cavalli's finger issue not believed serious; Abbott recalled

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Cade Cavalli’s removal from Tuesday night’s start for Triple-A Rochester was for precautionary reasons, and the Nationals’ top pitching prospect appears to have avoided serious injury.

Cavalli came out of Rochester’s game against Omaha in the fourth inning after throwing a pitch and immediately motioning to the dugout. Red Wings manager Matthew LeCroy told Rochester-based reporter Dan Glickman the issue was with a finger on Cavalli’s throwing hand.

“He had a little thing on his finger,” LeCroy told Glickman. “It wasn’t really a blister, it was a little small piece of skin that got pulled off his finger. He wanted to keep going, but we thought it would be best not to. I think we got it at the right time, so I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.”

Cavalli had been dominating for a second straight start, allowing one unearned run while striking out six through 3 2/3 innings. This after he carried a perfect game into the sixth inning of his previous start. Over his last seven starts, the 2020 first round pick sports a 2.15 ERA, 0.850 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings.

Cavalli, along with Single-A Wilmington infielder Darren Baker, was selected to represent the Nationals in Saturday’s All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium. His status for that exhibition is unclear at this point.

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Abbott is latest fresh arm to get called up

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Needing a fresh arm to help get them through today’s day-night doubleheader, the Nationals recalled right-hander Cory Abbott from Triple-A and optioned reliever Andres Machado to Rochester.

Abbott was today’s scheduled starter for Rochester in Scranton, so he’s available for length should the Nats need it either in relief of Game 1 starter Joan Adon or nightcap starter Paolo Espino.

“The biggest thing was bringing up a guy who could give us multiple innings if need be,” manager Davey Martinez said.

Abbott, 26, has big-league experience, pitching seven games last season for the Cubs, allowing 13 earned runs on 20 hits and 11 walks over 17 1/3 innings. The Giants acquired him in April, then the Nationals claimed him off waivers in May and sent him to Triple-A to pitch as both a starter and reliever.

In six games spanning 13 innings for Rochester, Abbott allowed 13 runs on 17 hits, walking nine but striking out 18.

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