Rusin's return to rotation gives Rox big lift

Lefty tosses five scoreless innings in first start of season

Rusin's return to rotation gives Rox big lift

PHOENIX -- When Eddie Butler takes the mound in San Diego on Tuesday night, he will become the eighth starting pitcher used by the Rockies in only 26 games.

Injuries to Jon Gray (who has returned from an abdominal strain) and No. 1 starter Jorge De La Rosa (on the 15-day DL for a strained left groin), plus Jordan Lyles' demotion to Triple-A, have forced manager Walt Weiss to go deeper than he'd like at this point.

"That's what we do," Weiss said. "Our starting depth always gets tested every year."

All of which made Chris Rusin's first turn in the rotation on Saturday night a welcome occurrence. Rusin shut out the D-backs on one hit with six strikeouts through five innings. He didn't receive a decision in the Rockies' 5-2 victory, but the 29-year-old left-hander did something in the first inning he had never done in the big leagues: He struck out the side.

While tempted to allow Rusin to go another inning, Weiss pulled the lefty at 76 pitches -- 32 more than Rusin had thrown in his four relief outings.

"The best-case scenario was five [innings] and 75 [pitches], and that was exactly what he gave us," Weiss said. "That's the best we could have hoped for."

Rusin wanted to go another inning but understood that the three walks he issued pushed the pitch count to the limit.

"I was effectively wild," Rusin said. "I wasn't too accurate, but everything was down, where it needed to be. I got ground balls when I needed to get ground balls."

The five shutout innings extended Rusin's run to 14 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings over four outings since allowing three runs in his season debut April 8. His impressive stat line also includes a 1.69 ERA and 0.75 WHIP.

Some of his peripheral numbers indicate a regression is due, but Rusin figures to get at least another turn or two in the rotation. De La Rosa can come off the DL as soon as May 12, but Weiss indicated that the Rockies' Opening Day starter will need at least one rehab start.

Rusin made 22 starts for the Rockies last season, and 43 of his 53 big league appearances have been starts. If it were up to him, he'd prefer to stick in the rotation rather than be used out of the bullpen.

"I'll do whatever to stay up [in the big leagues], but I want to stay in the rotation," Rusin said. "I just like getting into a rhythm, a groove, and to prepare for the game [as a starter]. It's not just, 'You've got the next inning,' and you throw 10 pitches and that's it."

Added Weiss: "I'm very comfortable with him on the mound in any role. He has shown the ability to control his surroundings, control the game."

Tony DeMarco is a contributor to MLB.com based in Phoenix and covered the Rockies on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.