Cubs Name Carlos Villanueva Fifth Starter, Chris Rusin Optioned to Iowa

According to multiple reports, the Cubs have decided to start the season with Carlos Villanueva in the rotation. Villanueva will slot in behind Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel and Travis Wood. Villanueva’s first start will be on April 6 against the Phillies.

Chris Rusin was optioned to Triple-A Iowa and will begin his season in the minors after a solid Spring Training.

The Cubs plan on keeping Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood on a five-day cycle. Villanueva is used to adjusting his routine to fit his team’s need. Rusin will start every five days in what has a chance to be a good rotation in Iowa.

Having Carlos Villanueva begin the season in the rotation is a smart move. The Cubs will be able to keep Villanueva stretched out which should increase his value to another team looking to fill holes in their rotation.

The final three spots in the pen are not set. As previously reported, it was thought that Justin Grimm, Alberto Cabrera and Hector Rondon would take the last three spots in the pen if Rusin was sent to Iowa to start the season. That is not the case. Jed Hoyer said Friday morning that the Cubs could recall one of the relievers they have already optioned down or reassigned to the minors. The Cubs have three pitchers that will start the season on the DL (Jake Arrieta, Kyuji Fujikawa and James McDonald) and the front office could use the rules to their advantage to recall a reliever to take the place of a pitcher placed on the disabled list.

The 25-man roster is almost set … just three spots in the bullpen that has to be determined.

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  • Tony_H

    I would assume it would be Blake Parker, but maybe Vizcaino.

    • TheWrongGuy

      Yes it is a real toss of the coin here.
      Vizcaino – super stuff and groom for closers role.
      Parker – gives quality outs with average stuff.

      I believe Vizcaino has more options than Parker, so my money is on Vizcaino. The next in line for a call-up would be Parker, like more “insurance”.

      • Tony_H

        They both will be up this year and both have already been optioned this year, so they are free to be moved back and forth from Iowa to Chicago all year. I think Parker, because they want to control Vizcaino more, especially at the beginning of the year when bullpens usually need to cover more innings with starters not going as long yet.

        • TheWrongGuy

          With Vizcaino I think they want to groom him for the closers role at MLB level.
          With Parker I think when they call him up they want to keep him at the MLB level because of his options. And he will be the next called up if an injury or trade happens. IMO Vizcaino makes the most sense here.

          • Tony_H

            Not sure I understand what you mean on Parker “because of his options”

          • TheWrongGuy

            Doesn’t he only have 1 option left?

          • Tony_H

            Parker has 2 options going into this year. They used one for 2014 and can use the other one for 2015. Each option covers the entire season to be able to move them up and down as much as they want. (There are rules on how fast you can recall a player that was sent down without an injured player that is needed to replace)

          • TheWrongGuy

            Ok then.
            I was mistaken. I thought each time a player was recalled that = 1 option. Sometimes its good to be “wrong” pun intended. :)

          • Tony_H


            Here is the CCO page that explains all transaction rules. Neil has done a great job of putting this together.


            Here is the info on counting option years.

            Counting Option Years

            If a player is not sent to the minor leagues during a season (year), an option is not used.

            If a player is on the 40-man roster in Spring Training but options to the minors before the season begins, an option is used.

            If a player’s optional assignment (s) to the minors totals less than 20 days in one season, an option is not used.

            A player may be eligible for a fourth option year if he has been optioned in three seasons but does not yet have five full seasons of professional experience. A full season is defined as being on an active roster for at least 90 days in a season. If a player is placed on the disabled list after earning 60 or more days of service in a single season, his time on the DL is counted. The 90-day requirement means Short-Season leagues (New-York Penn, Northwest, Pioneer, Appalachian, Gulf Coast, Arizona Rookie, Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) do not count as full seasons for the purposes of determining eligibility for a fourth option.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Grimm and Rondon have pitched poorly in ST. Neil Ramirez brings a big hammer with him. He looks like a great closer to me. Not excited in the least about Grimm.

  • BigJonLilJon

    Finally… they’ve given me a reason to be pissed. I’ve been so happy with the moves… Olt, Kalish. Bonaficio. But this one is wrong. Rusin earned the spot. Am thinking they just want to show case a hopeful trade with Villanueva for the future. And I get that. But it goes against the good will they’ve shown this spring with the roster.

    • Ripsnorter1

      How about leaving him in for 9 ER, 10 H in just 2 IP the other day? Did you enjoy a little confidence builder like that? That’s not a good way to handle your young pitchers. I’d call that bad management.

      • Tony_H

        ST is about getting your work in, even after only getting through 2 innings, he would have had to go and get his number of pitches up in the bullpen. But part of ST is also seeing if a young pitcher can work through and out of bad situations and outings.

        C’mon, everything and every bad outing is not bad management, sometimes it is just a bad outing.

    • Tony_H

      I was rooting for Rusin as well, but have gone back and forth on which was a better move. If they had gone with Rusin, then after just about 3-4 starts will go back to the minors no matter how he pitched when Arrieta was ready to go. Compared to going with Villanueva who will just go to the bullpen and whichever of the last 3 bullpen arms struggles the most will go to the minors.

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