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Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove focused on fast recovery from offseason surgery

Kevin Gorman

BRADENTON, Fla. – Joe Musgrove knew that abdominal surgery would sideline him for six weeks, so the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher searched for a fast way to pass his down time.

The 6-foot-5 Musgrove has been clocked on the radar gun anywhere throwing his fastball from 95-97 mph, regardless of whether he weighed 230 pounds or 250. But he feels more athletic at a lighter weight, so Musgrove used intermittent fasting to keep his weight down.

“I was really diligent. I kept my diet really clean,” said Musgrove, who was allowed an eight-hour midday window to eat every day. “I knew it was going to be easy to sit there for six weeks and eat crap food and watch movies and TV all day.

“I tried a couple different things, trying to keep my weight around the same. Not being able to lift as heavy and put on as much size as I wanted to, coming off an injury like that, it was a little different offseason for me. But I feel good. I feel strong. I feel ready to go.”

Whether Musgrove is ready to go for Opening Day is a different story.

After being acquired from Houston last year, Musgrove was slowed by shoulder soreness in the spring. He traveled with the Pirates to the opener in Detroit last season but when it was rained out he had to return to Florida for his final scheduled six-inning start.

He’s optimistic that spending the next six weeks in spring training with the same discipline as he showed with his diet could have him ready for a spot in the starting rotation, but doesn’t want to risk re-injury.

“Who knows? The biggest goal for me is to break with the team and be ready to go right out of camp,” Musgrove said. “But with the way our team is set up right now, the importance is for me to be 100 percent healthy and able to go out there and maximize my performance and give them what they’re expecting.

“I don’t want to go out there if I feel I’m not prepared or hindered a little bit in my delivery. The last thing I want to do is go out and pick up an arm injury because I’m not using my lower half the way I should be. So it’s going to just be a daily process this spring of listening to my body and communicating with the trainers and coaching staff.

“Ideally, my first goal is to just break with camp.”

Musgrove had a 6-9 record, with a 4.06 ERA and 1.179 WHIP in 115 1/3 innings over 19 starts last season, pitching through an abdominal wall strain and stress reaction on the front of his pelvic bone. Not that he used it as an excuse.

“Joe Musgrove, when healthy, was every bit as good as that three,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “He won’t make an excuse that he wasn’t healthy in the second half, when his numbers faded. He wasn’t healthy. It was impacting him. I appreciate the man so much that he won’t say it was, but it did have an impact.”

Musgrove believes he showed his starter’s mentality in the second half, going six innings in 10 of his final 11 starts before being shutdown in mid-September. He had surgery a month later.

“I think I showed them the kind of pitcher I am,” Musgrove said. “I’m somewhat of an emotional pitcher. I think I pitch with emotion; I don’t think I pitch emotionally. But I’m a gamer, man. I go out there and compete and try to do whatever I can to win.

“I think they got a little taste of that last year. Ideally, I’d like to be healthy for a full season and provide that for a full season of time and not just a short spurt. … I feel like I grew a lot but ultimately my goal is to be healthy for a full season.”

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Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at [email protected] or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.


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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove throws during the second inning against the Cubs Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove reacts after an infield hit by the Cubs' Willson Contreras during the fifth inning Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, at PNC Park.