Addison Russell on his Hollywood return to Cubs: 'That was a pretty special moment in my life'

Addison Russell on his Hollywood return to Cubs: 'That was a pretty special moment in my life'

Addison Russell is back and he made sure everybody in baseball knew it.

Russell hasn't played since Aug. 2, out with a foot injury that he initially thought would only keep him out the minimum 10 days.

The Cubs activated their World Series-winning shortstop Saturday and he came up in the bottom of the eighth inning in a tight 3-1 game against the St. Louis Cardinals:

It'd be tough to write a better script unless it was maybe a walk-off homer.

The 40,959 fans in attendance at Wrigley Field gave Russell a standing ovation before he even took that swing and when he circled the bases and disappeared into the dugout, they demanded a curtain call, which he was none too happy to oblige.

"That was a pretty special moment in my life," Russell said. "Walking to the plate, I couldn't help but smile inside. I felt light. It was pretty fun."

Russell said he had been working to mentally prepare for his return as well as all his physical work and joked that he surprises himself sometimes, too.

He knew a day or two ago that there was a chance he could be activated this weekend and he had been chomping at the bit to get back on the field with his teammates in a pennant race.

Joe Maddon just wanted to ease Russell into the game and hoped Saturday's pinch-hitting appearance would be one step toward a comfort level at the plate.

Looks like Russell's feeling plenty comfortable.

"Of course we're not expecting that," Maddon said. "I just wanted to get him an at-bat. I knew [Ben] Zobrist was coming up and we could do the double switch thing and all of a sudden, the ball was in the seats. But also reminded you, talking about what we've been kinda missing this year is his presence, also."

Russell's teammates loved it. 

"Same when Willy [Contreras]came back," Albert Almora Jr. said. "That just goes to show what type of fans we have and how loyal they are. It's awesome. 

"I got goosebumps when both of them came up to hit in their first game. For him to come back like that, jeez, man, I was super proud of him."

Kyle Hendricks — who got the win Saturday with a masterful performance — remembers his own return to the field after a long layoff to injury.

"That was awesome to see, man," Hendricks said of Russell. "Him smiling going around first. It's been a while and I know how that feels from earlier this year. Just brings more energy to us. Part of the group; he's one of the guys. It's awesome to have him back, that's for sure."

Russell has had a trying year, both personally and professionally. He said his teammates' reaction to the homer helped make the moment extra sweet.

He stayed in the game after the at-bat and went to shortstop, moving Javy Baez to second base for the first time in six weeks. Russell also caught the final out of the game when Yadier Molina hit a soft liner to shortstop.

With Almora playing center, Ian Happ in left field, Jason Heyward in right field and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant rounding out the infield, the Cubs liked the way their defense looked to end the game. 

There is no shortstop controversy or question on if Russell will be on a postseason roster (if the Cubs make it). He is the shortstop and Baez is the second baseman, giving the Cubs elite level defense up the middle.

Can the Cubs as a whole get back to that historic defensive level they played 2016 at?

"I think so," Russell said. "As we go down here toward the end of the season and then hopefully into the postseaosn, the team's just gonna get stronger, defensively and offensively."

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants