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New Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove shows Clint Hurdle what he can do

March 29, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. — After the Pirates traded for starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, manager Clint Hurdle did his homework.

He spoke to him on the phone, and asked others about him.

“He seems to be a competitor in everything he does, whether it’s the weight room or running sprints,” Hurdle said. “He pushes himself extremely hard. It came across on the phone. He’s a no-nonsense, focused, roll-up-your-sleeves, go-to-work guy.”

Finally, Hurdle got a chance Thursday to see him do what the Pirates are paying him to do: pitch.

Musgrove, who was nursing right-shoulder discomfort early in spring training, pitched in a major league game for the first time in a 9-5 loss to the New York Yankees.

He started and pitched two outs into the third inning, allowing a double to Aaron Judge — the Yankees’ only hit against him — and walking three. But he struck out five, even touching 94 mph on occasion.

“I felt he got sharper as the outing went on,” Hurdle said. “I think he was overamped for the first hitter (a walk to Brett Gardner), and he just settled in. He had a nice sink to the fastball, and he mixed in everything else. I thought it was a very good step forward.”

Musgrove said working against a tough Yankees lineup was the type of challenge he needed, and he was able to work on various facets of his arsenal.

“Moreso throwing pitches in certain counts,” he said. “I used my changeup a little more. I used it to put away (Giancarlo) Stanton, which is something I don’t do very often.

“All of the credit goes to (catcher Francisco Cervelli), challenging me to do things I usually am not comfortable with. To have some success just builds a bond between you and the catcher.”

Musgrove, who felt some arm stiffness in the third inning, might pitch twice more this spring, hoping to go four innings and then five. If he’s not ready to start the season, that’s OK, he said.

“Making the opening day roster is important for me, especially being on a new team,” he said. “I want to be there for the guys.“But he will be smart about it.

“My health throughout the year is more important to me than being there for opening day,” he said. “If things continue to progress like they have, there’s a good chance I’ll be there.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.