With a pat on the back and a tip of the cap, the Chicago Cubs optioned lefty Chris Rusin back to AAA Iowa after yesterday’s game. The outing, which served as a glorified start for Rusin, saw him go five innings, allowing one earned run, three hits, and an (intentional) walk. He struck out one.
Rusin was brought up to save the bullpen for a day, and, given how quickly Carlos Villanueva was bounced from the game, that’s exactly what he did. With his mission accomplished, the Cubs will bright up a more traditional one-inning righty reliever, and it’s a guy whom most thought would be in the bullpen to start the year in the first place: Blake Parker.
After a dominant 2013 season, split between AAA and the bigs, Parker figured to be a lock to start the year with the Cubs. An ugly Spring Training (and a pitching glut) later, and Parker was cut from Spring Training and headed for Iowa. Brian Schlitter instead got the final right-handed slot in the bullpen, but he was sent down yesterday to make room for Rusin. A player optioned to the minors cannot be recalled for at least 10 days, except in the case of an injury replacement, so even if the Cubs wanted to bring Schlitter back today, they couldn’t. I’m not so sure they didn’t want to bring back Parker all along, once he was given a brief shot to collect himself at AAA.
And that’s exactly what Parker has done so far: he’s thrown three scoreless innings, allowing three hits, no walks, and striking out five. He’ll come back to the Cubs in something of a middle relief role. He’ll try to establish himself as well as he can before Jake Arrieta returns in the next week or two, bouncing Carlos Villanueva to the pen, and pushing someone out of the pen.
As for Rusin, he’ll return to starting at AAA Iowa, awaiting an injury or a trade to open up a more regular spot in the bigs.