Joe Musgrove Looking to Provide Pirate Rotation with Needed Boost

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03: Starting pitcher Joe Musgrove #59 of the Houston Astros throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03: Starting pitcher Joe Musgrove #59 of the Houston Astros throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting rotation could receive a needed boost tonight

When the Pittsburgh Pirates play the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park tonight, right-handed pitcher Joe Musgrove will make his Pirate regular season debut. Musgrove was one of the key pieces in the trade that sent Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros in January.

Musgrove battled shoulder fatigue in spring training, but was still set to open the season in the starting rotation. But a muscle strain in his final spring start would land Musgrove on the disabled list.

This season, the Pirate rotation has been by far the team’s weakest link. Entering play Wednesday, the Pirate bullpen ranked second in the NL in FIP (3.15) and third in fWAR (2.0), while the offense sat third in the NL in runs scored (232).

The Bucs currently own a 27-22 record, but with better starting pitching the team could easily have 30 wins by now.

Entering play on Thursday, the Pirates’ starting rotation ranked 9th in the National League in FIP (4.20) and fWAR (2.3), and11th in ERA (4.22) and home runs allowed (36). Once you factor in Ivan Nova allowed five runs and a pair of home runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched in Wednesday afternoon’s loss, and these numbers will be even worse.

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In order for the Pirates to remain in contention throughout the rest of the season their starting rotation needs to be better. The rotation could gain a much needed boost by recalling Nick Kingham from Triple-A, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Tonight, however, the rotation could get a big boost from the returning Musgrove. In four rehab starts Musgrove showed why he is a former top-100 prospect. He allowed just 17 hits, a home run, walked a pair, and struck out 17 in 17 2/3 innings pitched.

During his Major League career Musgrove has been better as a reliever (2.37 FIP, .236 opposing wOBA in 35 1/3 innings pitched) than a starting pitcher (4.82 FIP, .357 opposing wOBA in 135 2/3 innings pitched). But, this will be his first real shot at an extended look in a Major League rotation. He also has the stuff and pedigree needed to be a good starting pitcher, especially in the National League.

Hopefully, Musgrove will take this opportunity and run with it. Because the Pirates are in desperate need of the boost he could provide.

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