GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Maybe something good came from the debacle that was the Chicago Cubs' second half last season. After selling off some parts and shutting down some others the Cubs gave pitchers such as Chris Rusin a chance to start in the big leagues.
It didn't always go so well for the fourth-round draft pick in 2009 as Rusin produced a 6.37 ERA in seven starts. But fast forward to this spring and the lefty has been lights out.
"If I did good or bad it was a good experience because you have to experience failure up here before you can succeed or just know how to deal with it, to get over it and do well the next game," Rusin said Thursday after shutting out the Los Angeles Dodgers over five innings.
There's up to three spots in the bullpen available when the regular season begins thanks in part to Matt Garza and Scott Baker starting April on the disabled list. Rusin and fellow lefty Hisanori Takahashi are believed to be in competition for one of them.
"I don't think about that at all," Rusin said. "They tell me to pitch, I pitch."
And pitched he has. He's thrown 13 innings this spring and given up just one run. His lone walk of the spring came to the leadoff man on Thursday.
"I had some trouble finding it in the bullpen earlier before the game and (then) I had that four-pitch walk, I didn't know where it was going to go after that," Rusin said.
"I didn't know I was going to do that well against them today," Rusin said. "I had movement and early action. Kept my defenders on their toes not on their heels."
Asked before the game if Rusin was in the mix for a roster spot, manager Dale Sveum responded: "I'm not going to sit here and say he's out of it. ... You want to take your best whoever it might be."
Rusin says he's never pitched in relief except in spring training. And with Sveum announcing on Thursday his starting rotation to begin the season -- it doesn't include Rusin -- his only option to make it to Chicago is in the pen. He's fine with that.
"If they tell me to bat 4-hole I'll go in there and bat 4-hole, probably won't get a hit but that's what I'll do," he joked.
Almost an afterthought after his rough go of it late last year Rusin has given the Cubs something to think about.
"Getting my feet wet last year will help me if I get up here this year," he said.
The Cubs will play three split-squad games in a row this weekend. On Friday in Mesa a squad will take on the Japanese team participating in the WBC. They're working out in Arizona before heading to San Francisco for the semifinals. Another squad will travel to Glendale to take on the White Sox. After that game that split-squad will head to the airport and Las Vegas for games Saturday and Sunday against the Texas Rangers.
The team in Mesa will take on the Kansas City Royals on Saturday then travel to Tempe to take on the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is expected to join the Mesa group on Saturday as Team Italy was eliminated from the WBC on Wednesday. Baker is scheduled to make his Cubs debut on Sunday against the A's. The Cubs will cut down their roster after the set of split-squad affairs.