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Musgrove takes positives from rough outing

Luplow continues push for bench spot with homer; Bucs sign Korean prospect Bae
MLB.com @adamdberry

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As he made his way back from an early spring setback, Joe Musgrove found few opportunities to consistently pitch in a game-like atmosphere. His first outing was on a back field at Pirate City. His first Grapefruit League start lasted less than three innings against the Yankees.

Musgrove got that opportunity against the Red Sox on Tuesday at JetBlue Park, where he allowed six runs on eight hits over four innings in the Pirates' 12-6 loss. The results weren't ideal, but Musgrove was eager to review the outing with catcher Francisco Cervelli, watch the film and get the necessary feedback.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As he made his way back from an early spring setback, Joe Musgrove found few opportunities to consistently pitch in a game-like atmosphere. His first outing was on a back field at Pirate City. His first Grapefruit League start lasted less than three innings against the Yankees.

Musgrove got that opportunity against the Red Sox on Tuesday at JetBlue Park, where he allowed six runs on eight hits over four innings in the Pirates' 12-6 loss. The results weren't ideal, but Musgrove was eager to review the outing with catcher Francisco Cervelli, watch the film and get the necessary feedback.

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"There's some positive things to grab and move on and get him back out there again," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The game gives you feedback. He's been a really good evaluator, so he'll have some feedback from this game and be able to put it in play the next time he takes the ball."

Limited early in camp by right shoulder discomfort, Musgrove said he felt strong even as he struggled to repeat his delivery and his fastball rarely topped 92 mph. He threw 62 pitches, including 44 strikes, and used all five of his pitches with a focus on mixing in sinkers and cutters down in the zone.

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"I like where I'm at right now. Obviously the results weren't what I was hoping for today, but those are things that are going to get better and better as the spring goes on," he said. "I've got two outings left to sharpen things up, and I feel like I'll be right on point with it."

Musgrove expects to pitch five innings Sunday against the Blue Jays before making a six-inning/100-pitch outing at a time/place that is to be determined. The timing of that start should provide further clarity as to when he'll join the Pirates' rotation. With two early off-days, the Bucs don't need a fifth starter until April 8.

"We're looking forward to him making a large number of starts for us this year," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Which start he gets is something we're working through at this point."

Around the horn
• The Pirates on Tuesday released outfielder Daniel Nava but hope to re-sign him "in the coming days to continue his rehab and hopefully help our Major League club later this summer," Huntington said. Nava, who was in camp on a Minor League contract, is rehabbing after undergoing back surgery on Feb. 27. At the time, the Pirates projected he would return to action in 10-12 weeks. Nava returned to LECOM Park after the operation and said he intended to remain with the Pirates staff in Bradenton because "I want to be around baseball."

• Outfielder Jordan Luplow hit his fourth home run of the spring to right-center field off David Price on Tuesday. After a slow start, Luplow -- competing with Bryce Brentz and Jose Osuna for the final bench spot if the Bucs decide to carry 13 position players on Opening Day -- has gone deep twice in his last three games and hit safely in four straight.

"He's gotten better as the camp's gone on as far as timing his swing, directionally hitting the ball," Hurdle said. "I think we're seeing the guy that we saw throughout the Minor League system last year put his foot down, get his swing off and get some air underneath the ball at times. It's fun to watch."

• Right-hander Michael Feliz will "likely" join closer Felipe Rivero and setup man George Kontos at the back of the Pirates' bullpen, Huntington said.

• Huntington said "nothing has changed" regarding the Pirates' plans for their rotation, which will also include Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon and Musgrove. The club has not yet informed their pitchers who will start the second and third games of the season, but it figures to be Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl -- possibly in that order, based on how they're lined up.

• The Pirates signed Korean shortstop prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, whose previous deal with the Braves was voided, for a bonus of approximately $1.25 million, a source confirmed to MLB.com. The news was first reported by PiratesProspects.com.

Bae, who is working out at the club's Pirate City complex, received the second-largest bonus the Pirates have ever awarded to an international prospect. (Luis Heredia, who is no longer in their system, received a $3 million bonus.) The Pirates have now spent more than $5.25 million of their $5.75 million international signing bonus pool for 2017-18.

Up next
The Pirates will play under the lights on Wednesday as they return to Fort Myers to play the Twins at Hammond Stadium at 6:05 p.m. ET. Williams will start for Pittsburgh, with right-handers Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick and Jordan Milbrath also scheduled to pitch. The game will be available on MLB.TV and will also be broadcast on KDKA-FM and the Pirates Radio Network.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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