Musgrove sees opportunity with trade to Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) Joe Musgrove started in the All-Star Futures Games two years ago when he was a Houston Astros‘ prospect. Now, the Pittsburgh Pirates hope the right-hander can be a big part of their future.

Musgrove was the centerpiece of a four-player package the Pirates acquired from the defending World Series champion Astros on Jan. 13 in a trade for right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Three of those players are expected to be on Pittsburgh’s opening-day roster – Musgrove, right-handed reliever Michael Feliz and third baseman Colin Moran – while outfielder Jason Martin is slated to begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

”It was hard to leave the Astros,” Musgrove said. ”From a career standpoint, though, this is a really good move for me. I feel like I fit in with what the Pirates are doing.”

The Pirates are going out of their way not to use the word ”rebuild” as they prepare for the 2018 season. They are, however, are at the very least retooling on the heels of back-to-back losing season that followed three straight postseason appearances.

In addition to Cole, who won 19 games in 2015, the Pirates also dealt 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants during the offseason.

The 25-year-old Musgrove figures to be part of an all right-handed rotation in which 31-year-old Ivan Nova will be the elder statesmen. Jameson Taillon is 26 and Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams are both 25.

”Just in the first few days of spring training, I could see the talent here,” Musgrove said. ”There are a lot of good young arms. I’m excited to be a part of it. I think it’s going to be fun to grow with the rest of the guys in the rotation.”

The Pirates are confident Musgrove has room for improvement after spending parts of the past two seasons with the Astros. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder compiled an 11-12 record and 4.56 ERA in 49 games, including 25 starts.

”He profiles as everything we look for when it comes to drafting pitchers,” Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said. ”He has a big frame, he’s durable, he has a power sinker. There is a lot to like about Joe and it was just two years ago that he graduated (to the major leagues) as a top-40 prospect.”

Musgrove started for the United States in the 2015 Futures Game at San Diego, a major honor for someone who grew up in suburban El Cajon, California. He made his major league debut two weeks later with the Astros.

Last year, Musgrove made seven relief appearances in the postseason for Houston and was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the World Series when the Astros outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in 10 innings.

Meanwhile, the Pirates haven’t been to the World Series since 1979. Their chances of ending that 39-year drought this season don’t appear promising as they play in a strong NL Central that includes the two-time defending division champion Chicago Cubs along with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.

That doesn’t dampen Musgrove’s enthusiasm.

”In Houston, we had a core of good young players then it all came together for us and you saw what happened last year,” he said. ”There is a lot of young talent here, too, and what really impresses me is the atmosphere in the clubhouse. I got the sense very quickly this is a close-knit group, which is we had in Houston, and it makes it easy for someone new like me to acclimate myself. I feel really good to be here.”