When pitchers and catchers reported in the middle of Feb., the Chicago Cubs were expected to have eight relievers competing for seven spots in the bullpen. Quickly, that decision was put aside ended when Scott Baker was ruled out until the middle of Apr. Michael Bowden and Shawn Camp both had room to make the 25-man roster.
Within a couple weeks, manager Dale Sveum went from “who must I cut” to “who must I add.” Before Cactus League games started, Matt Garza strained his left lat. That will keep him out until the end of Apr.
Those two injuries forced Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva into the starting rotation. That left a bullpen that was one man short. Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell, Hector Rondon, Bowden and Camp made up six-sevenths of the bullpen. The Cubs needed one more pitcher to start the season in the bullpen, at least until Apr. 17.
Enter Chris Rusin. At age 26, Rusin has enjoyed as good of a spring as anyone could expect. As of Mar. 14, Rusin has allowed one earned run with a 0.69 WHIP in 13 innings. He’s an intriguing candidate to start the season on the 25-man roster because he’s a left-handed pitcher. Along with Russell, that would give the Cubs two southpaws in their bullpen.
There’s no doubt that Rusin has had a great spring. Does that mean that it’ll translate into success once Apr. 1 rolls around? History suggests no. During Cactus League games in 2012, Rusin had similar success when he allowed one earned run and a 0.60 WHIP in 10 innings. During the regular season, Rusin allowed a 6.37 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 29.2 innings.
Spring training stats are deceiving. Once Rusin starts facing MLB hitters on a regular basis, those stat lines will skyrocket. Or maybe he’ll surprise some people.
He’s earned the opportunity to start in the bullpen. Just don’t be surprised if he’s sent back before the end of Apr.