In fact, since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa, he’s given the Cubs something to think about for next season.
“He’s been right there with [Travis Wood] Woody as our most effective starter ever since he got into the rotation,” manager Dale Sveum told reporters after Chicago's 3-1 loss. “To me, that was probably his most impressive outing against a lineup -- their numbers against left-handers is pretty impressive.”
Rusin might have suffered the loss, but that doesn’t mean he’s not making strides. As Sveum indicated, the Pirates hit left-handers well. They rank third in the National League with a .263 batting average against southpaws and are tops in the league with a .332 on-base percentage.
Against Rusin, they hit .166 for the night with a .200 on-base percentage. He was that good.
“I just knew I had to be on my game or else I wasn’t going to do well,” Rusin said. “If I had the stuff I had last game, I probably wouldn’t have lasted as long.”
That’s one positive trait Rusin has shown this season: his ability to bounce back. That didn’t happen a year ago when he was recalled. He’s a different pitcher now -- and has been since spring training.
“He’s definitely put himself in a position to have every opportunity to make the rotation,” Sveum said of Rusin's chances for next season.
That wasn’t on anyone’s mind after the Cubs traded Matt Garza and Scott Feldman, opening a spot for Rusin. He was simply filling a need. He’s done more than that, sporting a 2.85 ERA in 11 starts this season. And being compared to Wood is about as good as it gets for a Cub pitcher this season. As for next season, Rusin is trying to keep that out of his mind when he takes the mound.
“I don’t think about it,” Rusin said. “I just go out there and do what I’m supposed to do. It was a lot better than last outing."
Sveum added: “We’ll cross those bridges when we get to it.”
Just the idea of Rusin in the mix is a surprise -- a nice one in a season that’s been mostly dreadful.