“We set them [focus] looking forward to playing deep into the season, being available during the minor league season and beyond,” Rizzo said ahead of the Nationals’ 2-1 win at Globe Life Field on Friday. “Because our plan is always to play until October… I think we’ve kind of adjusted that, kind of tweaked that in a way that’s the best way to go about achieving the goals. The goal of player development is to help these guys grow mentally, physically and emotionally in order to complete a full major league season. And we think those little pauses in between…”
Rizzo didn’t finish the thought. But the idea, as he went on to explain, is to give breathers now rather than shutting down players in August or September. Cavalli has spent all season with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings and has learned to master his secondary pitches in the zone. Henry was promoted to Rochester in early June after dominating for the Class AA Harrisburg Senators. House, the club’s first-round pick last summer, was in the low Class A at the Fredericksburg Nationals, combining a very productive April with some recent struggles on the plate.
Cavalli’s season stats: 12 starts, a 4.87 ERA, 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.9 walks.
Henry’s AA-AAA stats (with the Nationals limiting him to short starts due to his recent injury history): nine starts, a 1.71 ERA, 9.7 strikeouts per nine and 3.1 walks.
And House’s offensive numbers: 203 plate appearances, eight doubles, three home runs and a .278/.356/.375 slash line.
Cade Cavalli imagined this life
As for holding back Cavalli and Henry, Rizzo recognized their desire to stand their ground and prove themselves. But the Nationals have already eased up on right-handers Jake Irvin and Rodney Theophile in recent weeks. They also carefully brought in Matt Cronin, a left-hander who had a .00 ERA in Harrisburg (16⅓ innings) and takes his clumps in AAA.
“Their job is to pitch, and their job is to get into the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “So they think the more they pitch, the better their chances of getting into the big leagues. That’s why we need to give them a global view of their careers and show them how they’re not just preparing to move up to the big leagues, but how to stay in the big leagues and achieve what we expect them to do.”
Rizzo predicted that Henry would be closed for another week and House for about 10 days. Cavalli’s schedule, on the other hand, was a little less clear. Rizzo told reporters, “There’s nothing wrong with Cade.” In his last appearance, he threw a wild pitch in the fifth, was checked out by manager Matthew LeCroy, pitching coach Rafael Chaves and Rochester’s physical coach, and then recorded two more outs to close the inning break up.
Cavalli’s speed was a few ticks slower. After the outing, he only reported general arm pain to the team, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. But that was enough to convince Washington to hit the pause button. Another consideration was that Cavalli was not a full-time pitcher as of 2020 and was pitching 123⅓ innings last year.
“We want them to serve all season,” Rizzo reiterated. “So we think when they get their 25 starts we’re going to spread them out a bit. And we think after about 10 starts is a good time to give them a breather. Well, with Cavalli, I think so [was] his 12th start and we also give him a break. This is just our minor league protocol for players.”