Door open for Rusin to make Opening Day roster

Door open for Rusin to make Opening Day roster

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Rockies' options for fielding an early rotation and long bullpen began to crystalize Friday morning, with the revelation that lefty Chris Rusin has rebounded enough from left middle finger inflammation that he is being groomed for the Opening Day roster.

Righty Jon Gray's abdominal strain, which likely will leave him on the 15-day disabled list to start the season, forced the Rockies to devise a new strategy. Rockies manager Walt Weiss said the club could begin the year with five starters, or, because of three days off in the season's first 12, could hold off on a fifth starter until April 14 or 16.

Rusin will make his Cactus League debut on Saturday, with 30-35 pitches of relief against the Rangers.

Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

"We're just moving forward, trying to get him ready," Weiss said. "Both [rotation and bullpen] are in play for Rusin. We've got some options, some things to talk about over the next week or so."

The Rockies also are building the pitch count of righty Christian Bergman, who is scheduled to throw 75 pitches Sunday against the D-backs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Rusin, who made a career-high 22 starts (and two relief appearances) last year, and Bergman, who pitched in relief in all but four of his 30 appearances, are options for fifth starter and long relief.

Bergman on strong relief outing

A healthy Rusin (6-10, 5.33 ERA, two complete games, one shutout last season) allowed the Rockies to option righty David Hale to Triple-A Albuquerque. Hale (5-5, 6.09 ERA in 17 games/12 starts last season) missed the early part of camp with a right hamstring strain and has appeared in one Cactus League game.

"It's unfortunate with the injury he was playing catch-up all spring," Weiss said. "But there's a lot of good stuff going on with David mechanically."

Hale fans Andrus in spring debut

Worth noting

• In addition to optioning Hale, the Rockies reassigned non-roster outfielders Kyle Parker and Mike Tauchman, catcher Ryan Casteel and pitchers Nelson Gonzalez and Brock Huntzinger to Minor League camp.

• Weiss loves to tinker with the lineup, but there would be logic in him going with rookie shortstop Trevor Story in the No. 2 spot in the order -- behind Charlie Blackmon, who is a stolen-base threat, and ahead of Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado. Opposing pitchers may not be in position as often to test the discipline of Story, who has yet to debut in the Majors.

Story's RBI double

"The two-hole in the lineup is a very protected spot, especially if you've got a base-stealer leading off, because they're more inclined to throw fastballs to have a chance to throw that guy out stealing," Weiss said. "And they don't want to walk you, because you've got the boppers coming up behind you."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.