From a mainstay starter in Iowa for much of four seasons, to a reliable major league reliever, left-hander Chris Rusin's baseball career took some unexpected turns. A fourth-round Cubs draft pick in 2009, the now-31-year-old finds himself with a comfortable position in the Colorado Rockies bullpen.
Rusin played collegiately at the University of Kentucky where he was a first-team All-SEC pitcher, the team's first since 1997. His success with Kentucky led him to becoming the Cubs' fourth draft pick in 2009. The lefty made his professional debut with Rookie League Mesa in 2009 and began his ascent through the farm, cracking Iowa's roster for the first time in 2011. He would spend parts of 2011-2014 with Iowa going 29-31 with a 4.55 ERA (214 ER/470.1 IP) over 78 games and 75 starts. Despite his longevity in Des Moines, it was one game on May 7, 2014 that made Rusin's Iowa career stand out. Facing the New Orleans Zephyrs at Principal Park, Rusin used 118 pitches to twirl a no-hitter; Iowa's 14th in history and seventh in the Triple-A era. It was the PCL's first no-no in five years.
That performance isn't the only time Rusin's name appears in Iowa's record book. By the time the lefty was claimed off waivers by Colorado in September of 2014, Rusin ranked second on Iowa's all-time list in games started (75) and earned second place for the lowest WHIP in a season (1.16, 2013).
In between his time with Iowa, Rusin appeared in parts of three seasons with Chicago (2012-14), debuting as a Cub on August 21, 2012 at Milwaukee. He spun 5.0 frames and allowed one run on one hit in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He would go on to amass a 4-9 record with a 5.52 ERA (60 ER/108.2 IP) for Chicago.
A starter with the Cubs, Rusin continued in this role for Colorado and Triple-A Albuquerque after his waiver claim. In 2015, he found some success in the starting spot, spinning two complete games for the Rockies and posting 5.33 ERA (78 ER/131.2 IP). In 2016, Rusin began a transition to the bullpen. Through seven starts, Rusin notched a 5.08 ERA (22ER/39.0IP), while posting a 2.58 clip (13ER/45.1IP) in 22 outings from the 'pen. At 29-years-old, Rusin found a new role in the game.
Rusin's success sped forward in 2017 as he solidified his role as one of Colorado's most reliable relievers. Appearing in 60 games, the lefty collected the second-lowest ERA amid Rockies' pitchers (2.65). Among non-closing NL relievers, this mark ranked ninth in the league (40.0+IP). He held opponents scoreless 40 times and logged an NL-best 85.0 innings from the bullpen. In the postseason, Rusin assisted the Rockies with 2.1 scoreless frames in the NL Wildcard game, a contest that eventually went to Arizona, 11-8.
Through his tenure with Colorado, Rusin is 8-2 with a 2.89 ERA (149.2 IP/48 ER) in 88 games, including an 8-2 clip with a 2.50 ERA (137.0 IP/38 ER) in 84 games from the bullpen. This relief ERA is the lowest for a Rockies reliever (135.0+IP) in franchise history.
Slated to make $1.287 million in 2018 (according to Baseball Reference), Rusin is eligible for arbitration in 2019 and free agency in 2021. He is anticipated to, once again, be a key piece in the Rockies' 2018 effort.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.