PITTSBURGH – The Cubs appear to be putting Addison Russell on the fast track.
Now that Kris Bryant is in The Show, Russell becomes the main attraction at Triple-A Iowa, where he’s moved from shortstop to second base, getting ready for his own potential call-up.
It looks like the Cubs are clearing a path for Russell, who entered this season as Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect and a challenger to All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro.
Exposing Russell to second base reminds you of the message Ryan Theriot once sent to Castro: Come and get it.
“We’re just trying to give him that opportunity to play there,” manager Joe Maddon said Monday at PNC Park. “Personally, I like guys like that playing a bunch of different spots in the minor leagues, if you can, because you never know where the need’s going to be on the major-league level.
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“It’s just being a little bit more proactive regarding prepping him for a need that may be open here. So, yeah, you could surmise that (we) might do that. But it’s not a lock. It’s just a matter of like expanding his infield horizons.”
The Cubs clearly could use an upgrade at second base. Combined, Arismendy Alcantara and Jonathan Herrera entered Monday hitting .125 (6-for-48) with zero extra-base hits. Tommy La Stella (rib cage) is on the disabled list. Javier Baez is on a leave of absence from the Iowa affiliate after the death of his sister.
Russell, 21, could become an offensive spark. He’s hitting .318 (14-for-44) with nine RBI in his first 11 games with Iowa. He also got rave reviews in spring training for his slick defense and mature clubhouse demeanor.
“He’s making the transition,” Iowa manager Marty Pevey told The Des Moines Register. “He’ll be a full-time second baseman right now, but he’s a big-league shortstop.”
The Cubs can use this season to see which young players step forward – and which ones go backward – and then reassess everything this winter.
Castro began the day leading the team with 14 hits. He’s still a three-time All-Star who just turned 25 and remains under club control through 2020. That’s the type of player you can build around.
Castro seems energized by the possibility of playing for a contender – and playing with blue-chip talents like Russell.
“Right now, Starlin’s playing a great shortstop,” Maddon said. “I think Starlin’s playing really well, offensively, defensively. Everything he’s doing is really high-caliber right now.
“I just think you need to keep a young player coming up. (If) you think his bat may be ready to play here, you got to get him a position to play.”