With Matt Clement likely headed elsewhere in 2005, it appears that Rusch will have a chance to become the fifth member of the team's starting rotation.
Rusch finished 6-2 with a 3.47 ERA in 32 appearances for the Cubs last season. As a starter, he was 4-2 with a 3.48 ERA in 98 2/3 IP, averaging a little over six strikeouts per nine innings combined this past season. After a disappointing 2003 campaign with Milwaukee, where he finished with a 1-12 record and 6.42 ERA, Hendry signed Rusch last April to a minor league deal.
That deal paid off big time. When Mark Prior started the season on injured reserve and then Kerry Wood went down with arm problems in May, Rusch filled in admirably. In a memorable May 22 game against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, he pitched 7 2/3 brilliant innings and allowed just one run. He did the same four months later in the Cubs' final push for the Wild Card.
After replacing Clement in the Cubs' rotation, Rusch allowed just one run in an extra innings loss to the Reds.
Rusch's rejuvenation last year was due in part to work on his mechanics with the Cubs' pitching staff, but also to a newfound belief in himself.
"I've had the same stuff my whole career," he told the Chicago Tribune last June. "It's a matter of confidence is all it is. Just ask a hitter or a pitcher who's going well or not going well. We get down on ourselves, just like a 12-year-old does in a Little League game. Same type of situation."
Rob Kallick is a staff reporter for InsideTheIvy.com. Contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.