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Colorado Rockies LHP Chris Rusin on the mend after finger injury, getting close to return

I caught up with the Colorado Rockies' breakout lefty from last year to discuss the minor finger injury that set him back this spring.

Colorado Rockies LHP Chris Rusin is recovering from a minor finger injury.
Colorado Rockies LHP Chris Rusin is recovering from a minor finger injury.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Scottsdale, Ariz. -- Fresh off a breakout season on the mound, and smack dab in the middle of a position battle for a spot in the Colorado Rockies' starting rotation, left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin was lost to injury early this month with inflammation in his left middle finger.

While it wasn't enough to keep him out for even a full week of his throwing program—Rusin has been back playing catch and is getting closer to game action—it did alter his course this spring, and the injury came as something of a surprise to the Kentucky native.

"It’s just one of those freak injuries," Rusin told Purple Row in the Rockies' Scottsdale clubhouse this week. "I don’t even call it an injury, just a minor tweak. I don’t even know. I can’t really describe what happened. But it happened, and you can count on these problems year in and year out. It’s just something that you deal with, and keep a strong mind about, and keep rehabbing."

A minor tweak sounds like an appropriate way to describe it; thankful that he didn't tear anything in the finger, Rusin dealt with the inflammation with less than a week of rest before resuming his throwing program several days ago. Naturally, it set him back a bit behind the other pitchers competing for jobs in the starting rotation, but he seemed calm and realistic about the progress he was making in recovery.

"I only missed six days of throwing, so it wasn’t too bad, and I kept my arm in pretty good shape," Rusin admitted. "I’ve never had it before, so I didn’t know how to treat it or know what to expect from it. But it’s been going well. I took just a little break from throwing, and it’s been healing pretty good. I’m throwing a live [batting practice] in the next couple days, so we are making progress."

If random, unexpected finger inflammation sounds to you like a weird injury, just imagine being in the shoes of a pitcher determined to make the big league club out of spring training in a highly contested group of starting pitchers. After all, Rusin, who tossed two complete games and finished with career highs in both innings and wins while walking just 2.8 batters per nine innings last summer, was a bright spot in a mostly muddled Rockies rotation.

Now, he's down the depth chart after being sidelined with the setback.

"I’m just going to let the finger take its course, and go from there, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself," Rusin admitted about his short-term future. "We’ll see how this finger heals up. I want to break camp with the club, but I just want to take this day by day, and when the time comes, really get down to it."

Really getting down to it for Rusin means making up for a lot of lost time in the next two weeks, and as much as he downplayed the injury, it was still significant enough to warrant a pretty measured slow-down. Perhaps not surprisingly, Rusin surmised that had he experienced this injury during the summer, it likely would have landed him on the disabled list.

"I’d probably miss two or three starts from it, just from taking those days off," Rusin admitted about a hypothetical summer injury. "Every day off of throwing that you miss, you calculate probably two days of recovery time to get back, so I’d probably miss two or three starts, but it wouldn’t be a significant injury to miss."

"Unless I tore it, so..." he trailed off, clearly relieved it wasn't more serious than it turned out to be.

Serious injuries are something Rusin can't afford right now, after all. Despite all his good work last season, he's on the outside looking in at a big league rotation job this summer, and he finds himself behind at least Jorge De La Rosa, Jon Gray, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Chatwood, and Chad Bettis on the depth chart for the club's starting five.

That injury-caused position is irksome to the lefty, who came into camp with good buzz and momentum from his career year last summer.

"It’s frustrating, because it’s the best my arm has felt," Rusin admitted, sharing that he moved to Phoenix this winter in order to throw outside in a warmer climate all offseason. "So to have this minor thing come up, it’s a pain, but it’s something you go through as a pitcher. You’re going to have tweaks and all these little bumps in the road. You’ve just got to get through."

Get through, Rusin will, but a setback like this may cost him a job in the rotation, at least to start the season. A ticket to the Rockies' bullpen as the club's long man may be forthcoming. Whatever the case, the lefty is out of minor league options, meaning he'd be exposed to waivers should the Rockies not find a spot for him on their Opening Day roster, or even on the disabled list.

Time will tell soon enough what the future holds for the lefty, frustrating finger and all.