Cubs

Addison Russell denies abuse allegation but Cubs will keep their All-Star shortstop out of uniform for now

Addison Russell denies abuse allegation but Cubs will keep their All-Star shortstop out of uniform for now

Caught in the middle of a social-media storm and Major League Baseball’s stronger policy on domestic violence, Cubs All-Star shortstop Addison Russell released a statement Thursday that denied an abuse accusation leveled in an Instagram comment.

“Any allegation I have abused my wife is false and hurtful,” Russell said. “For the well-being of my family, I’ll have no further comment.”

The Cubs didn’t suspend Russell, telling him to stay away from Wrigley Field and handle his personal business, keeping him out of uniform for that night’s game against the Colorado Rockies. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein said his understanding is the police are not involved “at this time” in the Russell matter: “But I would not necessarily know.”

Epstein also couldn’t say when Russell might return to the lineup. A source close to Russell said technically “there is no investigation to speak of now,” framing it as a fact-finding stage under a collective bargaining agreement that gives commissioner Rob Manfred broader powers to impose discipline in these cases.

Epstein became aware that Russell’s estranged wife, Melisa, spilled details about their marriage Wednesday night, calling him out as a cheater on Instagram. The rumblings about Russell’s off-the-field issues burst to the surface when a woman believed to be one of Melisa’s close friends made the third-party accusation with a comment on the post.

Epstein met with Russell and manager Joe Maddon after a loss to the Miami Marlins and alerted MLB on Thursday morning. That image and the unidentified woman’s Instagram account were deleted after it caught fire on the Internet. 

“It’s honestly at such an early stage,” Epstein said, “that I don’t think it would be appropriate to do anything other than say we’re going to let it develop and then act as appropriately as we can. We care about all the parties involved and hope for the best.

“But making any judgment, I think, would be inappropriate at this very early stage.”

Epstein said the organization is limited in terms of conducting its own internal probe and will leave it up to Manfred’s office, which got its first test case before the beginning of last season, suspending New York Yankees closer/future Cub Aroldis Chapman for 30 games without South Florida prosecutors filing criminal charges after a domestic dispute.   

“It’s exclusively the territory of Major League Baseball,” Epstein said. “We did, of course, meet with Addison and reach out to his wife as well. But per the policy, it has to stop there and any investigative action is exclusively the territory of MLB.” 

Russell is 23 years old and exceptionally quiet in the clubhouse. He clearly hasn’t been performing up to the level that made him a 21-homer, 95-RBI force and a Gold Glove finalist last season, now hitting .209, lacking the same strong defensive presence and dealing with this cloud over his name.

“I would say the Addison Russell that we know is somebody that is a young kid who’s doing his best to be a really good citizen and a really good player,” Epstein said. “I think anything I say right now will be sort of viewed through the lens of this allegation – and it’s at such an early stage – that before I say any more I’d rather let this play out, out of fairness to Addison and fairness to the Cubs.”

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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