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Cubs: Addison Russell knows he won't figure it all out overnight

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Cubs: Addison Russell knows he won't figure it all out overnight

Addison Russell isn't expecting to be playing at an All-Star level already.

The Cubs' "other" top prospect is still only 21 years old and knows his game is a work in progress as he embarks on his second week in the big leagues, including his first series at Wrigley Field.

Russell is hitting just .136 through his first five games, striking out 12 times in 22 at-bats without drawing a walk.

[RELATED - Cubs see things starting to come together after sweep of Reds]

But he came through with arguably the biggest hit of the weekend in Cincinnati. Russell lined a bases-loaded, two-out double to right-center in the fourth inning Sunday, driving in three and lifting the Cubs to a 5-2 victory and a two-game sweep of the Reds.

"It's just a stepping stone, I believe," Russell said. "I just need to capitalize on that and bring it into next game and we'll see where we go from there."

Russell struck out six times over the weekend and that double was the only hit he had. He mentioned he was having trouble with the backdoor sinker and the way big-leaguers are pitching him.

"These are adjustments that I'm going to have to make day-to-day as I get more familiar with the pitchers," Russell said. "I haven't faced big-league pitching before, obviously, but it's just something I have to watch film of and take notes on."

Manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs like the way Russell has contributed even when he hasn't been hitting - namely playing great defense at second base, a position he just moved to only a few games before his call-up after spending his whole career as a shortstop.

Russell made a fantastic diving play in Friday's game, robbing Billy Hamilton of a hit and potentially saving a run as Hamilton wreaked havoc on the basepaths all weekend long. That play impressed Maddon, who feels Russell will only keep coming on offensively as he gets more at-bats under his belt.

[MORE - Maddon: Castro creating 'good baseball karma' for himself]

Maddon also made sure to remind everybody that Russell is still just 21 years old.

"He's fine," Maddon said. "How about the way he's playing defense? People focus on hits. It's not just about hits, folks. If you're gonna play that game, you're gonna lose a lot.

"You gotta catch it. He's a very good baserunner. There's all kinds of things he can do to help us win a game and he's doing it."

Russell's big hit Sunday made an impression on veteran starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, who got the win thanks to Russell's clutch stroke.

"Russell came up big for us," Arrieta said. "Those are things he's going to be able to do more often the more he gets comfortable here. You watch his at-bats, he's had some at-bats where he looks a little uncertain.

"But at the same time, the next time he comes up, he's putting some great swings on the ball. Those are things we expect. Some bumps and bruises along the way, but at the same time, quality at-bats. And that's exactly what he's been able to do."

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Russell said he's feeling the expected excitement in advance of his first series at home in a baseball cathedral undergoing restoration. He said he can't wait for the atmosphere around Wrigley Field, but knows he still has to keep his head on the ground and try to avoid getting caught up in the moment.

"I'm just understanding this whole process," Russell said. "It's not gonna be made overnight. It may take a few games or a few at-bats. I'm just trying to stay patient and stay with my approach and just believe in my talent."

Cubs Talk Podcast: It's time for a culture change for the Cubs

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AP

Cubs Talk Podcast: It's time for a culture change for the Cubs

After the Cubs Convention, fans left still uncertain about the team headed into the 2020 season. Host David Kaplan and NBC Sports Chicago Cubs writer Tim Stebbins discuss what they took from Cubs Con, the culture change that is coming to the organization and a realistic possibility that the Cubs are looking into disgruntled star Nolan Arenado.

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Marcell Ozuna signing with Braves rules out potential suitor for Kris Bryant

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USA TODAY

Marcell Ozuna signing with Braves rules out potential suitor for Kris Bryant

When former Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson signed with the Twins last week, one thought was Atlanta could pivot and try to acquire Kris Bryant to fill the void in their lineup.

That possibility looks less likely now, as the Braves announced Tuesday they’ve signed former Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million deal.

The Braves didn’t have a dire need for a third baseman — 22-year-old Austin Riley, a former top prospect, is waiting in the wings — so much as they needed a bat to replace Donaldson. Bryant would have checked both those boxes, but the path to acquiring him is more difficult.

Bryant has been fixated in trade rumors this winter, but any extensive negotiations won’t occur until his service time grievance case is resolved. NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan reported last week Bryant trade rumors this winter have been “greatly exaggerated” because the lingering grievance.

The Braves have been named a potential Bryant suitor as they hold the top prospects the Cubs would seek in return for Bryant. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman threw cold water on that notion recently.

There’s also the possibility the Cubs don’t move at all Bryant this offseason.

"No, we're not in a position where we *have* to do anything,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said Friday at Cubs Convention. “I think you want to always avoid being put in a corner where you have to make a deal and your back's against the wall and you're gonna take any deal that's out there.

“We’re not at all in that position but looking at the longer time horizon of the next two years, I think you would be wise at some point to do something that looks out a little bit more for the long-term and a little bit less for the short-term, but that doesn't have to happen now. We're not in a position where we have to move anybody."

Ozuna joining the Braves means the Cardinals lost one of their most productive bats from the 2019 division championship club. Like the Cubs, St. Louis' offseason has been marked by low-key moves, outside of the Cardinals acquiring pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore from the Rays, a deal which sent Cardinals slugger Jose Martinez to Tampa Bay.

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