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Chris Rusin pitches well in debut, but Cubs fall to Brewers

Cubs lefty Chris Rusallowed one run one hit five innings his major-league debut Tuesday. | Mike McGinnis~Getty Images

Cubs lefty Chris Rusin allowed one run and one hit in five innings in his major-league debut Tuesday. | Mike McGinnis~Getty Images

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Updated: September 23, 2012 6:23AM

MILWAUKEE — If the season ended today, the Cubs would have exactly two guys in the organization they would feel confident about as starting pitchers to open 2013.

One of them is someone they would have traded last month if he didn’t get hurt (Matt Garza), and the other still has more than a month left to complete his first full season as a starter (Jeff Samardzija).

Beyond that?

‘‘Well, I mean . . . confident?’’ manager Dale Sveum said.


‘‘That’s what the evaluation — the point of all this — is,’’ Sveum said as he sent out left-hander Chris Rusin to make his major-league
debut Tuesday against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. ‘‘That’s what we have. That’s the depth we have, and we’re going to evaluate it forward and see what we’ve got during the winter and spring.’’

Rusin did well enough in his five innings to match the Brewers’ hitters by himself, producing a triple in his first big-league at-bat and allowing only an infield single that deflected off his foot in the Cubs’ 5-2 loss.

Rusin retired the first nine batters he faced, then loaded the bases with one out in the fourth on a pair of hit batsmen and a walk before the infield hit produced the lone run against him. The Cubs trailed 1-0 when he left.

‘‘He did all right,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘I think there’s something there. His changeup’s real good, got some depth on it. He ended up getting back in some counts after losing some people, too. So he did all right for his first time.’’

Rusin, a fourth-round draft pick in 2009 out of Kentucky, is expected to get a longer look in the rotation down the stretch, but he won’t be in there the next turn through, Sveum said.

‘‘If they decide to keep me here, I’ll do my best every outing,’’ said Rusin, who called it a ‘‘bad night’’ because of the loss. ‘‘If not, I’ll do the same thing in Iowa. It’s whatever they think.’’

The Cubs have winless right-hander Chris Volstad scheduled to pitch Sunday, and rookie lefty Brooks Raley is due back this weekend from Iowa to make his fourth big-league start.

As though it wasn’t already
obvious, this is the crux of the Cubs’ rebuilding process. This is the bellwether of the process, the indicator for how long it will take.

And the only thing assured is that the process became measurable in years when the Cubs’ front office decided to deal short-term assets in the rotation — including Paul Maholm and, if they had been able to, Garza — for prospects.

‘‘You go into the winter knowing you have Samardzija and you have Garza,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘And then from there it’s going to be what we do with our evaluation and how spring training pans out. I’m sure there’ll be a battle in spring training, like there is every year, for spots.’’

The Cubs again will be forced into the free-agent market for starters just to have functional depth, but they likely will go more in the direction of value buys, such as Maholm, than front-line guys to build around. And anybody they might sign likely will be a candidate to be turned into a trading chip in July, like Maholm was.

‘‘It’s going to be a younger team [next year] with a lot less experience,’’ Garza said. ‘‘But if you’re going to have a full rebuild, you’re going to have a year or two like this. Right now, we’re going through some aches and pains — growing pains. But we’re going to be fine.’’

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