Colorado Rockies: Harrison Musgrave’s unique bullpen role

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 13: Pitcher Harrison Musgrave #59 of the Colorado Rockies throws in the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on September 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 13: Pitcher Harrison Musgrave #59 of the Colorado Rockies throws in the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on September 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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The Colorado Rockies have been hit hard in the bullpen with injuries to start the season. That cascade has caused a shift in one reliever’s role … and it’s a role where he may not be used in that role for a stretch of several games.

With Chris Rusin starting the season on the injured list with upper back tightness and Jake McGee recently added to the injured list with a knee strain, left-handers are at a premium in the Colorado Rockies bullpen. There are currently just two on the active roster — Mike Dunn and Harrison Musgrave.

Musgrave’s role is unique in that, while he may be called upon in a certain situation, he is also designated as “the long reliever” right now, meaning he has to be ready to throw multiple innings if needed.

"“We like Harrison’s ability to go multiple innings,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “If something happens to a starter, he’s the one guy who can throw 50 pitches and we feel good about it. He’s the only guy we have right now capable of doing that and giving us that length.”"

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While talking to Musgrave during Colorado’s recent trip to Tropicana Field to meet the Tampa Bay Rays, the 27-year-old talked with me in an exclusive interview about the mentality it takes to fit into his current job description.

"“You have to prepare. It’s a tough role. You usually pitch if we have big leads or if the starters struggle, and you never want the starters to struggle. It’s better if I don’t get used,” Musgrave smiled."

For Musgrave, in his current position, it’s all about being prepared for when and if he is needed.

"“You just stay within a program, including throwing off a mound every couple of days so you stay fresh,” he said. “When you get called, you have to be ready.”"

Musgrave made his Major League debut last season and threw 46.1 innings over a span of 37 games. His longest outing was a three-inning appearance against Seattle on July 13.

Heading into Friday’s home opener, Musgrave hasn’t been needed in the long relief role and has appeared just twice, totaling 1.2 innings of shutout work.

With McGee on the shelf, Musgrave knows he and Dunn may be called upon in a situational role to face one batter or have to go through multiple batters over the course of an inning or more. For him, it’s part of the job and a part that he readily accepts.

"“Dunner and I face a lot of lefties but even toward the end of last year, I came in in more of a relieving role, throwing against a lefty or pitching an inning where two of them might be batting,” Musgrave said. “You have to embrace it. Odds are that someone may have to come in to face a lefty on any given day so you have to be ready.”"

Black is counting on not only Musgrave in whatever role he is needed, but also the rest of his bullpen to step up with just two lefties at his disposal. He also voices confidence that they can do just that.

Next. Why Rockies fans shouldn't overreact to the start of the season. dark

"“Right now, right-handers are going to have to be able to get left-handed batters out,” Black said. “But we have guys who can down that, whether it’s (Scott) Oberg or (Seunghwan) Oh or (Wade) Davis, those guys could go through a number of guys.”"

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