PITTSBURGH -- On Saturday afternoon, Joe Musgrove made a six-inning, 92-pitch Minor League start in Florida, seemingly the last hurdle he had to clear before joining the Pirates' rotation. Early Sunday afternoon, general manager Neal Huntington said Musgrove was expected to make his Pittsburgh debut on Thursday against the Reds
PITTSBURGH -- On Saturday afternoon, Joe Musgrove made a six-inning, 92-pitch Minor League start in Florida, seemingly the last hurdle he had to clear before joining the Pirates' rotation. Early Sunday afternoon, general manager Neal Huntington said Musgrove was expected to make his Pittsburgh debut on Thursday against the Reds at PNC Park.
Early Monday morning, Musgrove told MLB.com his outing was "the best I've felt" and that he was "where I should be now going into my first start." About an hour later, Musgrove was placed on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to March 30, due to a muscle strain in his right shoulder. He will be shut down from throwing for five to seven days.
On Sunday afternoon, Musgrove reported that he was having more trouble than usual recovering from his outing. He was sent for tests but still hoped to pitch, if possible. Late Monday morning, Pittsburgh's medical staff met with Musgrove and revealed that he had a muscle strain.
"I didn't really know the extent. I've been battling that for a while, the discomfort and stuff," Musgrove said after the Pirates' 5-4 win at PNC Park. "Had the results come back different and they didn't show anything on there, then I probably would still be starting on Thursday."
Musgrove missed time early in Spring Training due to right shoulder discomfort, and the Pirates brought him along slowly due to his postseason workload with the Astros and the transition from the bullpen to the rotation. Director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said the muscle strain is an acute injury, and the best way to treat it is rest.
"It wasn't in his best interest for him to grind through this, this early in the season," Tomczyk said. "This will give us and him the best opportunity to have a successful 2018 season."
Musgrove said the discomfort lingered in his shoulder -- not enough to prevent him from pitching on turn, but enough to limit how much he could throw between outings. He hopes to resume throwing after five to seven days then return at full strength after building his arm back up to the point that he can effectively pitch deep into games.
"I don't want to be battling that and struggling this much to get through my five, six innings," Musgrove said. "Especially if I'm going to go out and compete with the team, I don't want to get run out in the third inning because I can't go back out and leave the bullpen with that mess and not give this team what they expect out of me."
Mercer exits due to injury
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer left Monday's win over the Twins after five innings due to right hand/finger discomfort, the club announced. Mercer jammed his pinky finger while diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt after hitting a single to right field in the fourth inning. X-rays were negative, Tomczyk said, and Mercer remains day-to-day as the swelling subsides.
Brault set to start
Left-hander Steven Brault will start in Musgrove's place on Thursday. Brault was stretched out to start in Spring Training but broke camp in the bullpen. Exactly one week after Opening Day, he'll join the rotation.
Brault threw 47 pitches over three innings in Friday's 13-10 win over the Tigers. After getting word Monday morning he would start, he threw a side session in the bullpen to prepare for Thursday.
"No question at all, I'm ready to go," Brault said. "It's funny, just talking about being a reliever this morning, then going back to being a starter. I'm going to be like Gumby. That's my goal -- flexible, change, mold me."
Holmes still on board
The Pirates recalled right-hander Clay Holmes from Triple-A Indianapolis to take Musgrove's spot on the roster. Holmes, Pittsburgh's No. 19 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, flew from Tampa, Fla., to Indianapolis to Detroit on Saturday, then joined the Pirates as their designated 26th man for the second half of Sunday's doubleheader.
Around the horn
• After sweeping a day-night doubleheader in Detroit on Sunday, the Pirates landed in Pittsburgh around 1 a.m. ET on Monday. Manager Clint Hurdle and most players arrived at their homes around 2:30 a.m. -- after driving through the snowstorm that hit western Pennsylvania late Sunday night.
"Then, you wake up to a winter wonderland that's beautiful, then you look at the green grass and you get ready to go," Hurdle said Monday morning. "It's Opening Day."
• Chip Ganassi, a former race car driver from Pittsburgh, threw out an honorary first pitch before Monday's game. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Cello Quartet performed "God Bless America" and the national anthem. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Pirates alumnus Elroy Face, a three-time All-Star and 1960 World Series champion.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.