Villanueva is #Cubs 5th starter. Rusin to Iowa
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 28, 2014
Villanueva, 30, went 7-8 with a 4.06 ERA and struck out 103 and walked 40 over 128 2/3 innings and 15 starts for the Cubs last season. The right-hander sealed the spot with a shutout performance against the Chicago White Sox in the Cubs’ final Catcus League game on Thursday. The Dominican Republican native, will likely hold the spot until Jake Arrieta returns from injury and move the a mid-reliever spot in the bullpen.
Rusin, 27, will head to Triple-A Iowa to start the ’14 campaign. The left-hander sealed his fate after allowing nine runs in 2 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s 14-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He made his major league debut for the Cubs in late August 2012 and spent the 2013 season in Iowa before being called up in July. With speculation that starter Jason Hammel, who was acquired during the offseason, will be a mid-season flip Rusin could join Villabuena in the bullpen at Wrigley.
An intriguing element to this decision is it means most of the bullpen pitchers will get a chance to start the year. Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon, and Alberto Cabrera all have the opportunity to make the team.
Muskat adds while this does open up three spots for the relievers, the team still has not decided on how the bullpen will be finalized. Muskat reported Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein and General Manager, Jed Hoyer may even bring back a guy who was sent to the minors.
This could possibly mean Blake Parker, who had a solid performance in 40-plus innings for the Cubs last season.