Rusch, who suffered through a 1-12 season with Milwaukee last year and was cut by Texas in spring training this year, has been a savior to a Cubs pitching staff that has been ravaged by injuries.
The lefty pitched effectively in 10 starts while Kerry Wood was on the mend, posting a 3-1 mark with a 3.43 ERA. And his record could have been better except for some troubles with offense and the bullpen in games he started.
Since he knew his time in the starting rotation was coming to a close with the pending return of Wood, Rusch continued to say the right things about returning to the bullpen even though he pitched eight scoreless innings in his July 4 start against the White Sox.
The 29-year-old Rusch was called on to save the day again on Thursday (July 15) when Mark Prior left a game against Milwaukee in the second inning with elbow discomfort.
Rusch didn't have a lot of time to warm up but came into the game and threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings to help the Cubs pull off a 4-1 victory over the Brewers in their first game back after the All-Star break.
"They were definitely not good circumstances to pitch in," Rusch said. "Fortunately we were able to come through and win the game."
"I didn't really think about (the win coming against Milwaukee) because things happened so quick. First I was sitting down in the bullpen to all of a sudden being in the game. It was a whirlwind. You have to try to get yourself as ready as possibly. They say you have as many (warmup pitches) as you want, but you feel a little bit of pressure when you're warming up in front of everybody."
"You want to get the game going," Rusch added. "No one wants to sit there and watch you warm up for 20 minutes. So have to get prepared the best you can and throw strikes."
- OF Todd Hollandsworth suffered a season-ending injury when he damaged nerves in his right shin on May 11, 2001. He suffered a similar injury in the same region when he fouled a pitch off the shin against the White Sox on June 27, and Cubs manager Dusty Baker said he didn't figure the reserve outfielder would be "back anytime soon."
There is speculation that this could be another season-ending injury for the often-injured Hollandsworth, but Baker is not ready to predict that.
"I don't think so," Baker said. "I can't say that. But he's a ways away. And that nerve damage heals very slowly."
- The Cubs are hoping for a little deja vu from Greg Maddux.
The veteran was 7-7 with a 4.51 ERA before the All-Star break, which was somewhat of a disappointment.
But the 38-year-old had a pre-break record of 7-8 with a 4.63 ERA for Atlanta in 2003. After the break, he went 9-3 with a 3.03 ERA and the Cubs are hoping he can post those kinds of numbers again in 2004.
In his first start after the break, Maddux threw his first complete game and shutout of the season in a 5-0 victory over Milwaukee on Saturday (July 17). Maddux added another win Thursday beating the Reds.
HE SAID WHAT? "You can't get anymore worried than sick to your stomach." - Cubs manager Dusty Baker after Mark Prior came out of the Thursday (July 15) game in the second inning with soreness in his elbow.