Cubs taking the cautious approach with Addison Russell's injury

Cubs taking the cautious approach with Addison Russell's injury

Get ready for more #JavyTime at shortstop.

The Cubs moved Addison Russell to the disabled list Friday morning with a right foot strain while Javy Baez drew his second straight start.

Baez will man shortstop in the short term while Russell gets healthy. In addition to Baez's baseball intelligence and instincts, this is also exactly why Joe Maddon doesn't want the Cubs to get rid of the young infielder: Shortstop insurance. Baez is really the only other guy besides Russell the Cubs have faith in running out at shortstop on a regular basis.

Russell has been hampered by an issue with his throwing shoulder this season, but Maddon said that is not a factor any longer and the Cubs just want Russell to get healthy for the stretch run as the Cubs have looked more and more like a playoff team of late. 

The Cubs hope to be playing deep into October (or even possibly November) again this fall, so no need to push a guy now, in the first week of August.

"It's been bothering him the last few days," Maddon said. "I wasn't aware of it prior to that. It's been going and he's probably kept it kinda quiet. I don't even know if it impacted those last couple throws that he made. We just thought it was wise to get it settled down right now."

Russell has had a couple throws come up short on him over the last few days, notching errors on Tuesday and Wednesday before sitting out Thursday's contest.

The Cubs ran tests on the foot and don't see any thing more sinister going on beyond a strain.

After a rough couple months to begin 2017, Russell has turned things around and helped turn the Cubs' season around in the process. He's hitting .306 since the All-Star Break with a .903 OPS, seven doubles, three homers and seven RBI.

His resurgence actually started earlier than that, as he's hit .288 with an .828 OPS since June 17. 

The Cubs called up left-handed pitcher Rob Zastryzny Friday in an effort to add more bullpen help against Washington's Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy as the current trio of southpaws — Mike Montgomery, Justin Wilson, Brian Duensing — have all been used a lot lately.

That leaves the Cubs with only three bench players Friday — Alex Avila, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. — though that figures to change over the weekend when the Cubs can send Zastryzny back down and call up Tommy La Stella or another infielder.

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