Back from injury, Rusin slated for first start

Rockies building lefty up following middle-finger issue

Back from injury, Rusin slated for first start

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Chris Rusin elected his health over the pressure of trying to create his spot on the Opening Day roster. By speaking up about a sore left middle finger that cropped up before his first scheduled Spring Training outing, he addressed both concerns.

Last season, Rusin went 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA in 24 games (22 starts), including two complete games and a shutout. Still, with Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Lyles returning from injuries and the Rockies excited about recent top Draft pick Jon Gray, it wasn't clear where he fit. And Rusin was out of Minor League options, which meant if Colorado couldn't keep him, he would have been exposed to the uncertainty of the waiver wire.

All that, however, took a back seat when Rusin felt something in the finger. The 29-year-old understands the fine mechanics of pitching, and how one move to compensate for pain could create greater problems. Rather than show how tough he was, Rusin sought information. It turned out he had inflammation of the A4 pulley tendon, a seemingly small injury that can lead to big problems.

Rusin's action plan has worked. He stayed out of Cactus League play until Saturday, when he gave up one run and four hits in 1 2/3 innings, and limited hitters to weak contact, during a 7-6 victory over the Rangers. In an effort to build his pitch count, the Rockies will start Rusin on Tuesday against the D-backs. If Colorado feels he needs more time to build stamina, the club could put him in the bullpen to start the season. Rusin is slated to throw threw innings or 45 pitches in his first spring start.

"You don't really hear about it until it happens to you, then you start looking around," Rusin said. "I had a buddy, a college teammate [from the University of Kentucky], James Paxton, with the Mariners now. He tore his last year and I asked him if it was the same injury. Once he told me he was out for four months last year because he tore it, that's when I said something."

Rusin is fully aware of cases of pitchers having an A4 pulley tendon issue, then later blowing out the elbow ligament and having Tommy John surgery. Teammate Jorge De La Rosa and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright are two with this injury history. But from what Rusin has discovered, one injury doesn't automatically bring on the other.

"What happens is people tear it [the pulley tendon] or it's inflamed or whatever, and they start throwing a different way than their arm is used to, which leads of a chain reaction -- more injuries," Rusin said. "That goes with any injury you have."

By resting then gradually building to game speed, Rusin believes he was able to return with his mechanics intact. He wasn't thinking about it during his outing Saturday.

"Being out when you're trying to make a team and not being able to play the game that you love is tough," Rusin said. "It just felt like a jammed finger. But it was best to rest it."

Worth noting

&$149; Rockies left-hander Yohan Flande pitched three innings in a Triple-A game against the D-backs on Monday, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits with no walks and a strikeout. Flande, who balked in a run, threw 36 pitches.

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.