MESA, Ariz. – After learning third baseman Ian Stewart would start the season on the disabled list and right-hander Scott Baker was being shut down because of inflammation in his surgically repaired elbow, the Cubs were looking for something positive.
Chris Rusin provided the smiles.
Rusin overcame a shaky start Tuesday to pitch one-hit ball for the final three innings of his outing, and the Cubs beat the Texas Rangers, 5-4.
The 26-year-old left-hander could find himself on the big league club to start the season – or he might be sent to Triple-A to pitch on a more regular schedule.
“I don’t ask questions. If they [coaches] want to tell me [where I am going], that is fine. I feel like I have had a pretty decent spring.”
Stewart had not played for the Cubs this spring and re-injured the strained left quadriceps during a minor league game last week.
Baker signed as a free agent after having Tommy John surgery and missing all last season. He was shut down after a shaky start, his first against major leaguers.
Rusin began the spring with two relief appearances, followed by three starts, including Tuesday.
He was 2-3 in seven starts for the Cubs in 2012, and had 25 starts at Triple-A Iowa and one start at Double-A Tennessee.
It’s unlikely he would be part of the Cubs’ rotation, at least initially, although he could get a look in the bullpen with a spot-starting role as a possibility. If it is the bullpen, he said he would like to pitch in that situation a few times as the spring winds down.
As it stands, the rotation includes Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva.
Samardzija is due to start the opener April 1 at Pittsburgh, with Jackson scheduled for the home opener against Milwaukee on April 8 at Wrigley Field.
Rusin gave up two runs in each of the first two innings Tuesday.
“The first two innings today, you never want that,” Rusin said. “But you figure out your mistakes, find your release point. I was able to calm down, locate my fastball and throw my off-speed pitches.”
Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run home run, and Darwin Barney added a solo shot for the Cubs off Texas starter Alexi Ogando.
The right-handed Ogando, likely No. 3 or No. 4 in the Texas rotation, worked with a full windup and out of the stretch.
“He is still trying to find command of his fastball,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “But he is progressing. I’m sure he would like to take those two pitches back [to Soriano and Barney].”
Notes: Closer candidate Carlos Marmol made his seventh spring appearance for the Cubs, pitching a hitless seventh. ... Center fielder David DeJesus extended his hitting streak to 10 games (11 for 23). ... The Cubs have an off day today, and return to action Thursday with split squad games in Tucson (Dodgers) and Peoria (Mariners). Texas also is off, resuming play Thursday against the Angels. ... Right-hander Yu Darvish, scratched from Monday’s start for the Rangers with a stiff neck, is due to throw a bullpen session Thursday, and that will determine the next course of action. ... Outfielder Aaron Cunningham was sent to the Texas minor league camp after the game. The team had moved 12 others out earlier in the day.