ALTOONA, Pa – Joe Musgrove made his second rehab start of the season on Monday night, going four extremely efficient innings for the Altoona Curve. He made his first rehab start last Tuesday for Bradenton, where he gave up two runs in three innings.

Musgrove had a limit of four innings or 65 pitches, and he very quickly reached the four inning mark on only 34 pitches, 28 of them for strikes.

He worked almost exclusively with his fastball early in the game, just trying to get his fastball count up to build up his arm strength. Bowie took advantage early with a lot of hard contact, and Musgrove allowed a solo home run on a 93 MPH fastball that leaked towards the middle of the zone.

“As I’m building back, I was really trying to stay in the zone with all of my stuff,” Musgrove said of the first couple innings. “The expansion pitches are going to be the last ones to come for me. I felt good today. They were swinging early. That’s how it is a lot with rehab starts; guys usually come in and try to ambush the pitcher to not get to two strikes and see the nasty stuff. I was really trying to use my fastball and get the count up to build my arm strength. I was doing what I was trying to accomplish.”

In his last two innings of work, Musgrove looked like a major leaguer pitching to minor league hitters, completely overpowering Bowie. Ultimately, he retired the last nine batters he faced, and he struck out the side in the fourth inning.

“I told the catcher that I wanted to go out there and work like a legitimate inning,” Musgrove said about the fourth inning. “In the first two innings, I was really trying to get my fastball count up. In the third and fourth, I really wanted to mix it like he (Christan Kelley) would normally call a game. We got to mix pitches and use some more breaking balls. We saw some of the results we wanted to see.”

The thought of going back out for a fifth inning may have crossed Musgrove’s and the Curve’s coaching staff’s minds; however, it just wasn’t worth any possible setbacks. He actually went to the bullpen after exiting the game to get more work in, throwing 25-30 more pitches.

“I really wanted to get a good work in today and feel like I was tired,” Musgrove said of the bullpen work. “You’re not going to get much of that feeling after four innings.”

As for the injury, his shoulder felt good after the start, and he said that he will “see more tomorrow” when it comes to recovery.

From the Astros to the Pirates

When asked if he has noticed what Gerrit Cole has been doing with the Astros, Musgrove said that he definitely has and that “it’s incredible”.

“He’s surrounded by a great group of guys,” Musgrove said of Cole and his former teammates. “That’s what you get when you with veterans like Verlander and McCann. I’m happy for him.”

Although what Gerrit Cole has been doing in Houston has truly been incredible, Musgrove doesn’t feel that has affected him in any way at all.

“I don’t think how he performs should affect anything about me,” he said. “I’m coming over here to do my job, and I’m one step closer to that after today.”

Gerrit Cole aside, the hardest part has been coming to a new organization and not being able to play at the beginning of the season. He has dealt with injuries before, so those are nothing new to him, but the desire to be with his new teammates in Pittsburgh is definitely present.

“The mental side (of an injury) is what can really wear on you and break you down,” Musgrove said. “It’s tough being with a new organization and being traded for the guy I was traded for. I want to come over, make an impact, and show what I can offer. Being on the DL early is a tough break. I want to be out there with my teammates, show them what I can do, compete with them, and contribute to the team. I haven’t been able to do that. I just want to invest my time wisely to get my shoulder right and get the rest I need to get it where it needs to be.”

He spoke highly of the Astros organization, saying that they do a great job of developing their players. During the last few days in Altoona, he got to see Jason Martin, who was a part of the Cole trade as well, play everyday.

“It’s an opportunity for both of us to really establish ourselves in this organization,” Musgrove said. “As a young player to come up in the Astros organization – I have nothing but good things to say about them. They do a really good job of developing their players. I’m just excited for (Martin) to see what he can do.”

The Model Big Leaguer

Altoona Curve manager Michael Ryan has been extremely impressed by the mannerisms of Musgrove, calling him “the model big leaguer”. I thought that Ryan’s quote was better left untouched:

“Since he’s been here, he has shown us what it looks like to be a major leaguer. What he does between starts and how he supports his teammates… that he’s not even really a part of. He’s the first guy into the clubhouse and probably the last one to leave every night. He’s a model big leaguer. You have that in the clubhouse for guys to see what it looks like. Awesome. He was unbelievable.”

In my short time watching him interact with the younger players, it was obvious that he really cared about those around him. The larger impression to me: He walked, he talked, he acted, he spoke… like a big leaguer. He had that swagger to him that made you notice him. It was different than a lot of other guys I’ve seen in the clubhouse… and quite refreshing, honestly.

Musgrove didn’t bring an ice cream truck to the stadium this time; rather, he treated the club to Texas Roadhouse for their postgame meal.

As for the future, the goal is to get to six innings and 100 pitches before getting to Pittsburgh. His rehab will more than likely transfer to Indianapolis after his one start for the Curve.

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