PITTSBURGH -- Pirates right-hander Joe Musgrove picked up where he left off at the end of Spring Training, pitching a five-inning simulated game Friday during the club’s first Summer Camp workout at PNC Park.
Musgrove worked into the fifth inning of his final Spring Training outing on March 12 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla., but it wasn’t exactly a straight line from that start against the Blue Jays to the outing Friday against his teammates. Musgrove, who might be Pittsburgh’s Opening Day starter, said it’s a “night-and-day difference” considering how much better he feels now.
“It’s just kind of funny or ironic that my last one was five [innings] and this one’s five,” Musgrove said. “I look at the progress that I’ve made in the last 2 1 /2 months, not only physically but mentally -- knowing my adjustments and knowing when to slow myself down, knowing when to speed myself up. Those are all things that I really gained a good grasp of over this downtime. So it was good for me to go out at five and come in at five and feel the difference between the two outings."
Musgrove said he faced Gregory Polanco, Josh Bell, Colin Moran, Luke Maile and Phillip Evans in the simulated game, with Jacob Stallings behind the plate. Pitching coach Oscar Marin and bullpen coach Justin Meccage stood behind the mound and limited Musgrove’s pitch count to 15 per inning, making him throw 75 total on the day. Otherwise, they treated it like a real game.
“He looked really good -- five innings, stuff looked good, walked off the mound healthy. The stuff looked sharp,” manager Derek Shelton said. “Very happy with how it went. Oscar was very happy with the pitch execution and how the stuff looked.”
That Musgrove came into Summer Camp able to throw five innings and 75 pitches bodes well for his regular-season readiness. Musgrove used his downtime wisely, regularly throwing bullpens while working on his delivery, his six-pitch arsenal and his conditioning. Sometimes, he had to get creative finding places to throw, which is what led him to Point State Park for a recent game of catch.
“That’s like the highlight of our day,” Musgrove said. “We couldn’t go anywhere. We couldn’t do anything. So we’d drive the extra 30 minutes to get to a cool park with a cool view … just trying to get some enjoyment out of it.
“It made our day a lot more productive. The mentality was better; the energy was better.”
Around the horn
• Shelton said he expects hitters to be behind the pitchers as they report to camp, just like they typically are in Spring Training, as hitters need more reps to get their timing down.
“My first impression is pretty much what I expected. We have some good swings; then we have some swings where our timing looks like it’s off a little bit,” Shelton said. “I’m attributing that more to our pitchers’ stuff looking really good.”
“With that last spot, we’ll probably get a little creative and we can do a couple different things,” Shelton said. “That’s not to say that it couldn’t be one guy that ends up being that starter, but I think initially we’ll probably be a tad more creative with that spot.”
• Shelton said he has leaned on assistant hitting coach Mike Rabelo, who managed the Tigers’ Double-A Erie affiliate last year, for strategical input on the extra-innings rule in place this year. In extras, each inning will begin with a runner on second base, a pace-of-play change adopted in the Minors last year.
"I feel very fortunate that we have someone who managed in the Minor Leagues last year on our staff and has managed it. We'll lean on Rabs for his thoughts,” Shelton said. “There are some differences in what you do because a Major League game is different than a development game, but we are definitely still working through that."