PITTSBURGH -- Joe Musgrove spent most of Saturday basking in the excitement around Minute Maid Park. He reunited with his teammates for the first time since their World Series celebration and mingled with fans during Astros FanFest. The energy in Houston, Musgrove said, was "incredible."The right-hander was eating at the
PITTSBURGH -- Joe Musgrove spent most of Saturday basking in the excitement around Minute Maid Park. He reunited with his teammates for the first time since their World Series celebration and mingled with fans during Astros FanFest. The energy in Houston, Musgrove said, was "incredible."
The right-hander was eating at the airport on Saturday afternoon, waiting for his flight to San Diego, when he got the call from Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. He'd been traded to the Pirates as part of the five-player Gerrit Cole deal. Instead of flying home to prepare for another season in Houston's bullpen, Musgrove went back as a member of Pittsburgh's rotation.
"The initial [reaction] was a shock to me. Wasn't really expecting it," Musgrove told MLB.com. "I've had some time to kind of clear my head and process everything. I can tell you [Sunday] morning, I woke up feeling pretty at ease with the whole situation and pretty happy about it."
Musgrove will immediately join the Pirates' young rotation as the club retools its roster without Cole. The Bucs believe the 25-year-old Musgrove will thrive as a starter, even after some ups and downs with the Astros. The idea of rejoining the rotation certainly appealed to Musgrove.
"That's where I think I'm going to really develop as a pitcher," he said. "Going to the bullpen last year in Houston, I learned a lot about myself as a pitcher and really learned how to work out of jams and how to keep myself calm in uncomfortable situations. All those things I did in the bullpen are going to make me a lot stronger as a starter."
Musgrove was considered one of baseball's Top 100 Prospects before the 2016 season. He made his Major League debut that August and posted a 4.06 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts). He began last season in the Astros' rotation, where he struggled with a 6.12 ERA in 15 starts before moving to the bullpen.
Musgrove was dominant as a reliever, leaning on his fastball and slider as he recorded a 1.44 ERA. That success has some evaluators wondering whether Musgrove is better suited for the bullpen, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington said Musgrove "fits the mold of most successful Major League starting pitchers" given his aptitude, athleticism and deep arsenal.
As young as he is, Musgrove gained a lot of experience in a hurry. He's been a starter and a reliever. He's worked alongside Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. He's pitched on the game's biggest stage, picking up the win with a scoreless 10th inning in a wild World Series Game 5.
"Those are going to stick with me in my mind forever," Musgrove said. "I'm coming over feeling better about the experience that I have. That's the only way you can prepare for that, is through experience."
A popular player in Houston, Musgrove shouldn't be uncomfortable in Pittsburgh's clubhouse. He worked out last winter with fellow San Diego native Trevor Williams. He played with Steven Brault at Grossmont High School in El Cajon, Calif. He heard from manager Clint Hurdle, pitching coach Ray Searage and right-hander Ivan Nova, among others, on Sunday morning.
The first person who messaged Musgrove after the trade was Charlie Morton, the former Pirate and current Astro. What was his message?
"He just told me how Ray and [bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade] and [bullpen coach Euclides Rojas] were some of the best in the business, and I could rest easy knowing I was going to be working with them," Musgrove said. "I'm really excited about it. New minds to learn from and a new opportunity."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.