Musgrove streams 'live' bullpen, addresses fans

April 15th, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- Last season, went wire-to-wire in a Major League rotation for the first time in his career. It was a display of durability that the Pirates right-hander hoped to build on this year, so he spent the offseason and Spring Training refining his delivery and enhancing his arsenal.

That work continues for Musgrove, even with the season delayed and the plan to return unclear as a result of the national emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This week, he gave fans more than just a glimpse of how he’s gone about staying ready.

Working out at a facility near his home in San Diego, Musgrove threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and streamed its entirety live on Instagram. Then Musgrove sat down in front of his phone and explained the thought process behind the pitches he threw, the approach he’s taking to prepare during this uncertain downtime and the grips he uses to throw some of his six different pitches.

Musgrove worked into the fifth inning of his Grapefruit League outing on March 12, which turned out to be the Pirates’ final Spring Training game before the season was suspended. He said that afternoon was the best his stuff had felt all spring. He was nearly ready for the regular season and, most likely, a start during the Pirates’ first series at Tropicana Field.

Musgrove worked 170 1/3 innings over 32 appearances, including 31 starts, last season. He was the Pirates’ most effective starter, recording a 4.44 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, but he believes he’s capable of more in the future.

These days, more than a month after his last taste of game action, Musgrove is throwing bullpen sessions once or twice a week at what he described as “95 percent” intensity.

“I feel pretty good. Even though this time is downtime, a lot of people are talking about how you stay fresh, how you’re not going to tire yourself out and be worn out and worn down by the time the season comes around,” Musgrove said during his Instagram stream. “But if we weren’t resting and we weren’t at home in this whole quarantine deal, we’d be out playing. My body’s used to going seven innings, 100 pitches every five days. I think it’s important for us to get out here and get really good, quality work in with max effort -- or at least close to max effort -- and simulate something close to a game.”

Musgrove did that by throwing to catcher Eric Eckley, a former high school teammate at Grossmont High School. A hitter also stepped into the batter’s box during Musgrove’s second and final “inning,” which came after a brief break that made Musgrove’s work as game-like as possible.

The one thing that’s not game-like, though, is Musgrove’s pitch usage in bullpen sessions. He threw six different pitches last season: four-seam fastball, two-seamer, cutter, slider, curveball and changeup. But he trims that list during his bullpen sessions in an effort to sharpen one or two pitches at a time.

Musgrove said he focused on throwing his two-seam fastball in Tuesday’s bullpen session. That’s an offering he felt like he struggled with last season, but it can be a valuable part of his diverse pitch mix when he’s able to throw it where he wants.

“I know everyone’s in a really bad spot right now, but it’s almost a little blessing in disguise that we’re able to go out and work on the things that we really want to work on, but weren’t able to lock in [during] Spring Training,” Musgrove said. “Me being a guy that throws six pitches, it’s tough to keep all those pitches sharp. Really trying to take advantage of the downtime.”