The hot start to the 2018 season has come without the benefit of starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, one of the centerpieces of the Gerrit Cole trade.
Musgrove has been in a non-throwing rehab period since being placed on the disabled list with muscle strain in his right shoulder shortly after the season started. He battled shoulder discomfort throughout spring training and was shut down from throwing soon after the start of the season
Steven Brault got the start against the Cincinnati Reds in place of Musgrove and performed admirably, tossing five innings of one-run ball in which he picked up his second win of the season.
That earned Brault another turn through the rotation as he will get the ball Wednesday night against the Chicago Cubs.
In the meantime, Musgrove, who could have come off the DL on Monday, resumed throwing on Tuesday, but I wouldn’t expect him back anytime soon.
He threw off a slope and playing catch from 80 feet, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reported.
Once Musgrove builds up his arm strength, he’s likely going to require at least two rehab starts, which leave the Pirates in a situation.
Who’s the fifth starter?
Brault wants to be a starter and this is his opportunity to seize.
If he continues to pitch decent, expect him to keep getting the ball.
If he doesn’t, expect Nick Kingham to get a look.
Kingham pitched well striking out 10 in five innings during Triple-A Indianapolis’ season opener Friday night.
I really liked the way Brault competed in his first start. The conditions weren’t ideal to pitch in and he did walk four, but it was impressive the way he battled after the walks and limited the damage.
We’ve been wanting to get a good look at Brault as a starter for a while now to see if he could duplicate his minor-league success at the MLB level.
Now’s his chance. It will be exciting to see what he does with it.
What to do with Musgrove?
Musgrove was acquired to be in the rotation.
Plain and simple.
But what if Brault or even Kingham is pitching very well?
Musgrove proved last season for the Houston Astros that he could be a weapon out of the bullpen. However I just can’t see that being his role in Pittsburgh right off the bat.
Brault will have to be pretty outstanding to stick in the rotation for the long term right out of the gate.
That also seems unlikely, but it’s early in the season.
It’s early in the season and if the Pirates were in a pennant race in August or September, Musgrove would likely be on the mound. With that being said it makes sense to be cautious right now.
Musgrove is a while away from returning, but he’s at least been able to resume his throwing program.
No matter what happens, when he’s ready Musgrove is going to get the opportunity to start for the Pirates.
When that will be is still to be determined.