Joe Musgrove's struggles could push this pitcher to be Padres Opening Day starter

San Diego Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove
San Diego Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Musgrove struggled during the San Diego Padres Cactus League opener last week against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers, who are heavily favored to win the NL West in 2024, chased the Padres right-hander after just four batters without Musgrove recording an out.

The Dodgers loaded the bases against Musgrove, and Java Joe almost gave up a grand slam to new Dodgers outfielder Teoscar Hernandez. Instead, the fly ball bounced into the stands and the two-RBI ground rule double was the final blow for Musgrove.

No biggie, right? After all, it was just the spring opener. But after watching Musgrove give up four runs on three hits with no punch outs on Monday to the Cleveland Guardians, Pads fans are beginning to wonder whether or not Musgrove should be toeing the rubber during the Seoul Series next month. Perhaps a different pitcher should be getting ball on Opening Day.

Joe Musgrove's struggles could push Michael King to be the Padres Opening Day starter

Musgrove was replaced in Monday's game by Cole Paplham before he was able to wiggle out of trouble in the second inning. To start the third inning, Michael King took the ball for the first time as a Padre. King was one of the key pieces of the Juan Soto deal earlier this offseason.

King proceeded to work two scoreless innings while allowing just one hit. That's certainly an improvement over Musgrove's performance. Should King replace Musgrove as the Padres Opening Day starter?

It might be a bit premature to give Musgrove the boot. The Padres are committed to their ace. Musgrove is signed through the 2027 season, and has been a reliable starter in the past. Not to mention, it's only February and pitchers are constantly tinkering with stuff at this time of year. Musgrove was quoted as saying (via, "It’s the progression in the spring, and smoothing out the delivery as camp goes."

The hope, of course, is that Musgrove returns to form and is sitting atop the Friars starting rotation when the season begins. But if Musgrove has another poor outing and King doesn't slip, the potential is certainly there for the 31-year-old to take a back seat, at least to begin the season.

Musgrove is returning from an injury-riddled 2023 season, while King enjoyed the transformative year going from reliever to starter. King was highly coveted by Padres President of Baseball Operations AJ Preller, and was the lone player in the trade negotiations that the Yankees continually hoped they wouldn't have to surrender.

In the end, the Yankees relented and King is now part of the Padres rotation. How big of part remains to be seen, but thus far, King looks like the frontrunner to be San Diego's starter on Opening Day, while Musgrove looks a shell of himself.