Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goldeyes hurler masters sales pitch

Rusch talks Fish's Forney into spot on club, sight unseen

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If pitcher Matt Rusch throws with as much authority as he went after a job with the Winnipeg Goldeyes, manager Rick Forney will have himself another ace.

Rusch, who had played the past two seasons in Quebec City, called the Goldeyes during the winter after deciding to move to Winnipeg with his girlfriend, who transferred here.

"I said I'd love the opportunity to play with the team there because I was moving there for sure, and fortunately, they welcomed me with open arms," said Rusch, who was signed on Jan. 18. "Rick said he hadn't really had it happen that way before (a player already planning a move to Winnipeg), but the plan is to prove to him it was all worth it."

When the Goldeyes' training camp opens on Saturday, Forney has Rusch pencilled into the top three of his starting rotation along with returnees Ace Walker and Chris Salamida.

As Rusch's manager in Quebec was former Goldeyes player Pat Scalabrini, it was easy for Forney, who is due in Winnipeg Friday, to find out what his new player could bring to the table.

"He didn't tell me anything that would scare me off," Forney said, laughing as he spoke in a telephone interview from his Maryland home. "Matt's career numbers speak for themselves -- he's a strike-thrower, and if you can add a front-line starter, you do your best to do that. He's also a good teammate and that might be the most important thing of all. You need unselfish guys in your clubhouse."

A native of Rotterdam, N.Y., Rusch has twice been signed by Major League organizations and twice played at the AAA level. He played the full 2009 season for Toledo in the International League, appearing in 38 games, including one start and 37 out of the bullpen.

When Detroit released him after that season, he tried independent ball.

"I started to weigh my options. I went home for a bit but I wanted to keep playing," said Rusch who played the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Quebec Les Capitales in Quebec City. "It (being released) hurts your confidence for a little bit but you've got to get back out there. Going to Quebec, it was fun, there were really good coaches, I worked on my pitches and I was able to really focus on the things I needed to do. That's what I want to do here as well."

In 2011, he put up some solid numbers, starting 15 games and going 6-4 with a 2.99 ERA. Rusch averaged almost seven innings per start and held opposition hitters to a .167 average when runners were in scoring position. His contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox organization and he finished last season with AA-Portland in the Eastern League.

Two years ago when Rusch won a Can-Am League championship title with the Les Capitales, he was on the mound for the last out when his team won the final game.

"That was something special. They all jump on you, I ended up breaking my best friend's finger by accident when it got caught underneath me and all the weight of everybody fell on us," Rusch laughed, noting his friend Dan Sausville recovered and is playing this season with the Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am League.

"I'll never forget that feeling. It's one I'd sure love to have again here," Rusch said. "It makes you want to come back the next year and do it all over again. It's what everyone dreams of and strives for and I know it's what everyone here wants."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 2, 2012 D4

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