Cubs: Addison Russell ready to handle the grind of a long season


Cubs: Addison Russell ready to handle the grind of a long season

NEW YORK — The Cubs are bracing for Addison Russell to hit the rookie wall.

This will be a major second-half issue for a young team leaning on several key players who haven’t run the 162-game marathon before — much less experienced meaningful baseball through late September and deep into October.

“I just hear from people that it’s a grind,” Russell said. “This is actually my first year where I feel really, really good and I’m playing every single day. And it’s at the big-league level.

“It’s a lot to handle, but I’m just going to stick with my workout program, and stick to my routine, and hopefully that will be enough to get me through the season."

[MORE CUBS: After building around hitters, Cubs don’t have magic to fix offense]

With that in mind, Joe Maddon didn’t put Russell in Wednesday’s lineup against the New York Mets at Citi Field. The manager plans to give Russell and Kris Bryant scheduled days off, even with the Cubs struggling to generate offense, scoring eight runs in their previous seven games.

“These guys that have never done it before — it will just smack you in the face,” Maddon said. “So now is the time to really be proactive regarding how you work with these guys. I’m all for it.

“Because, again, we’re planning on playing several more months — one extra month.”

The Cubs will need their young players to produce if they’re going to stay in the wild-card race and force their way into the playoffs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bryant is the first rookie in franchise history with at least 10 homers, 40 runs scored and 40 RBIs by the end of June.

[SHOP CUBS: Get an Addison Russell jersey right here]

Russell — a 21-year-old second baseman who came up through the minors as a shortstop — is basically learning a new position in The Show after playing only 14 career games at the Triple-A level.

The Oakland A’s included Russell in last year’s blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade once he proved he had recovered from a torn hamstring in early April. Since Oakland drafted him No. 11 overall in 2012, Russell has played only 55, 110 and 68 games across the last three seasons.

By July 1, Russell’s OPS had dipped to .682, only one of his five homers came in June, and he’s 1-for-13 so far on this road trip through St. Louis and New York.

But the Cubs also believe Russell — a low-key, steady presence in the clubhouse and around the media — is wired to handle the ups and downs.

“I think (minor-league teammate Anthony) Giansanti said you couldn’t tell if I had two home runs in one game or struck out four times in one game,” Russell said. “That’s just kind of the ball that I play. In those crucial, exciting moments, I may show some emotion. But for the most part, I’m pretty much even keel.”

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.