Rusin's versatility a plus for Rockies

Rusin's versatility a plus for Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Discussions of the potential Rockies' starting rotation often end with, 'By the way, there's Chris Rusin. Bullpen projections also shoehorn him in the same way.

The point, however, is not that the left-handed Rusin is not appreciated. It's that he's available for whatever the Rockies need.

Last season, Rusin went 3-5 with a 3.74 ERA in 29 games, which included seven starts. His value was best shown during a stretch of six relief appearances. Five of them were three-inning outings, and he emerged with 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA. In two games in relief, Rusin gave up a combined four hits in six scoreless innings when Tyler Anderson was ejected on Aug. 13 at Philadelphia and Chad Bettis was lost because of a rain delay against the Nationals on Aug. 16.

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"It's very reassuring to us that we have a pitcher who is capable of multiple roles, and we feel good about his mental capacity when we thrust him into a role that might be different from the one he had yesterday," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Being able to pitch multiple innings, or to come into the game and maybe get a left-handed hitter out because of his package of pitches.

"We also know if there's a spot-start needed for some reason -- a game-time illness, all the things that could occur -- we get a hold of Chris the night before, we get a hold of Chris the day of, we get a hold of Chris at the ballpark, no panic. Good pulse."

Rusin is being treated as a candidate for a starter spot this spring, with an eye toward bullpen work if one of the other talented, young starters (Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela) grabs the rotation spot.

"I learned a lot last year, especially going from starter to long guy and then to the bullpen," Rusin said. "I had all the roles pretty much last year, with the exception of closing the game out. I learned a lot by watching video, talking to guys in the bullpen and watching other guys start.

"It was a different role for me. I just had to be ready every day, every game, not looking at what inning I'm going to pitch. Just be ready from the second or third inning all the way to the seventh or eighth. It helped me be prepared every game."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. 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.