PITTSBURGH — Joe Musgrove will throw a bullpen session on Thursday, but the Pirates don’t want him going full-bore just yet as he tries for the second time in 2018 to work his way back into game shape following an issue with his right shoulder.
Musgrove suffered discomfort in the joint early in Spring Training, was shut down for a few days, and then built back into game shape, throwing close to 100 pitches in a minor-league game before a muscle strain shut him back down again.
This time, the Pirates want Musgrove at about 60 percent as he gets back on the mound for the first time. In order to monitor that, they’ll be using a pocket radar to give Musgrove instant feedback about how hard he’s throwing.
“We say, ‘Go throw 60 percent or go 70 percent,’ but what does that really mean?” Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. “Guys see what the velocity is and then put a number behind it. Joe is learning to condition the arm at a certain intensity, yet not put his arm health in jeopardy for recovery.”
Musgrove will continue his bullpen progression if things go well on Thursday, with the next big step being a sim game or rehab start. It’s been 19 days since Musgrove has thrown, so it’s likely he’ll need at least one and possibly more rehab start before he can return to the rotation.
REHABBING IN THE SUN
Right-handed relief pitchers A.J. Schugel (right shoulder) and Bo Schutlz (Tommy John surgery) are both rehabbing with High-A Bradenton.
Schultz is farther along, having thrown 7.2 innings over 5 games, including his second two-inning outing against Palm Beach on Tuesday. Schultz will continue to stay in Bradenton for a while so his progress can be closely monitored before he joins a minor-league bullpen.
“He’s going to continue to stay with the Bradenton team and then we’ll reassess and see what the next steps are for him,” Tomczyk said.
Schugel will continue his innings buildup and is expected to play in Bradenton tonight. He made his first rehab appearance on Thursday, when he pitched one inning. The Pirates are essentially starting over spring training with Schugel, meaning he’ll go through the usual progression of building up innings and throwing on repeatedly shorter rest periods before he’s ready to go.
“We have a body of what he’s historically done and we’re trying to match that with the innings and the pitches,” Tomczyk said. “He’s recovering well.”
• Outfielder Daniel Nava (back surgery) and right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi (Tommy John surgery) are also in Bradenton rehabbing, but are not yet playing in games.
Double-A outfielder Bryan Reynolds is also in Bradenton. He had successful surgery to remove the broken hook of his hamate bone in his left hand and the Pirates expect him to be able to return in seven to nine weeks, with the usual caveat that hamate bone injuries typically sap a hitter of some of their power when they initially return.
The Pirates have had several players have the surgery, most recently Francisco Cervelli in 2016. Cervelli hit just one home run that season and had a career-low .058 ISO. He bounced back in 2017 with five homers and a .121 ISO.
• Single-A right-handed pitcher Sergio Cubilete left his start on Monday after he was struck by a line drive. Tomczyk said he has been released from the hospital and is in the concussion protocol.