Coming off a 1-12 season with Milwaukee in 2003 and an unsuccessful bid with Texas in 2004 Spring Training, Rusch signed with the Cubs in April 2004 and revived his career. Over two seasons in Chicago he has made 78 appearances, going 15-10 with a 4.03 ERA. In 35 starts, Rusch is 11-9 with a 3.94 ERA as a Cub.
He told general manager Jim Hendry during the Cubs' final regular-season series that he would like to return to starting full time.
"He wasn't interested in hitting the market; he just wanted a fair chance to be a starter," Hendry said. "I personally felt that he's done everything for the club in the last couple of years that we've asked of him."
Rusch was eligible for free agency, and there might have been a market for a left-handed arm that appears on the upswing, but he said, "I really didn't ever want to get to the point of talking to other teams."
Hendry made sure Rusch did not have to.
"His effectiveness was better this year as a starter," Hendry said. "Obviously, you don't promise anybody ... that they are penciled in the rotation. But I assured him that he could come back as a starting candidate and that I didn't have any interest any longer in putting him in the bullpen."
Hendry said the Cubs have been getting positive reports on the health of right-handers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, who missed significant time in 2005 with injuries. Right-handers Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano and Jerome Williams are also under contract for 2006.
Said Hendry: "I'm just not going to get caught short."
Rusch will earn $2.75 million in 2006 and $3.25 million in 2007. The contract includes up to an additional $500,000 each season in bonuses based on starts.
In 271 career appearances, including 202 starts, Rusch is 57-86 with a 4.88 ERA.
His 2005 season highlights included his first complete-game shutout in nearly three years, a four-hitter on June 2 in the Cubs' 5-0 win in San Diego. Rusch won his last four decisions to end the season, tying a career high.
"Sometimes it's just a change of scenery," Hendry said of the dramatic turnaround. "When you have a quality human being, most times those guys don't take the extreme failure that he had that one year lightly. He made some adjustments and he found a fresh start here."
Hendry was set to leave Tuesday morning for organizational meetings in Arizona. He said Cubs priorities include pitching and defense, and he also left the door open on a possible contract extension for All-Star first baseman and National League MVP candidate Derrek Lee.
"I'm sure some time after the new year we'll talk to [Lee's agent, Casey Close]," Hendry said. "I'm not real worried about it. It's a perfect match; he's very happy here and we're very happy with him. ... We'll not let the season start without having some serious dialogue with his representative."