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."
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.
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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.”