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Reliable Rusin a rock in Rockies' bullpen

Ability of left-hander to pitch in any situation could come into play during postseason
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Rockies left-handed relief pitcher Chris Rusin pitches with average velocity but off-the-charts grit.

Rusin, 30, whose accomplishments far outperform his recognizability, has helped the Rockies out of tight spots, in various roles, all season. With the National League Wild Card Game tonight (8 p.m. ET on TBS) against the D-backs, Rusin could step to the forefront as the Rockies' X-factor out of the bullpen.

DENVER -- Rockies left-handed relief pitcher Chris Rusin pitches with average velocity but off-the-charts grit.

Rusin, 30, whose accomplishments far outperform his recognizability, has helped the Rockies out of tight spots, in various roles, all season. With the National League Wild Card Game tonight (8 p.m. ET on TBS) against the D-backs, Rusin could step to the forefront as the Rockies' X-factor out of the bullpen.

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Despite a cool demeanor in tight situations, Rusin feels the excitement -- and uses it to his advantage. He'll need that trait as long as the Rockies remain in the postseason.

"Adrenaline will be there; the fans are more into it, and it's playoff baseball," Rusin said. "It doesn't hurt. It's part of baseball. I'm always scared to death when I'm out there, but I think everybody else is, or should be. Use that to your advantage. If you don't have nervous energy or drive, you shouldn't be out there; you're in the wrong sport or you're not doing what you should be doing."

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Rusin finished the regular season second among Major League relievers with 85 innings pitched. Need a reliever to come in during the first inning? He's done it three times. The ninth? Well, he has two saves. He's worked two or more innings 17 times, including five games of three or more frames.

At 5-1 with a 2.65 ERA, 71 strikeouts against 19 walks and 10 double-play grounders forced, the Rockies have plenty of reason to use him as often as possible. And in the postseason, where hooks for starters are quicker and crucial confrontations occur repeatedly, Rusin's role is of greater importance.

"On balance, all year, he's been really consistent and really steady," said Rockies manager Bud Black, who compares Rusin to a Swiss army knife. "He's a guy we've really leaned on a lot, and he's performed. It's a great compliment to his ability, and really his status on this team. He's been under the radar in a lot of ways."

It's good that the Rockies didn't let Rusin slip beneath their radar when they claimed him off waivers from the Cubs late in the 2014 season. Used mostly as a starter, Rusin appeared in 24 games (20 starts) from 2012-14.

Rockies assistant general manager, player personnel, Jon Weil, who scouted Rusin back in 2014, called Rusin and welcomed him to the club after the waiver claim.

"The gist of it was that we know that you have the stuff, the pitches, the pitchability to pitch here," Weil said. "This is a good change of scenery for you, we believe in you, our scouts believe in you.

"And I said all the things that you hear about Coors Field, don't worry about them. Your pitches, your stuff and your mentality are going to work here. It did. It was certainly an acquisition that we're proud of, seeing what he's been able to do to contribute."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Chris Rusin