PITTSBURGH — Addison Russell will be the latest Cubs prospect to come off the assembly line.
The Cubs are promoting Russell from Triple-A Iowa, two sources confirmed after a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night at PNC Park. It’s an aggressive move that reflects the growing confidence within the clubhouse and inside the organization.
“We’re just playing the game with a lot of verve right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I really enjoy watching us play.”
A natural shortstop, Russell had just started working out at second base, preparing to play alongside Starlin Castro and add another dimension to what could become a monster lineup.
At a time when offense is down across the game, Theo Epstein’s front office has repeatedly bet big on hitters. When everyone assumed the Cubs would need to get pitching back in the deal, Russell became the headliner in last summer’s blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade with the Oakland A’s.
The A’s had selected Russell with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Pace High School in Florida. He entered this season as Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect.
Russell is just 21 years old and has played only 14 career games above the Double-A level. But the Cubs accelerated the timeline after seeing his offensive game at Iowa — 14-for-44 (.318) with nine RBIs in 11 games — and the lack of production from their second basemen.
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So much for getting into a rhythm and those deliberate player-development plans. It’s only April, but the Cubs are 7-5 and want to ride this wave of momentum.
The Cubs already dropped Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect (Kris Bryant) into the middle of their lineup over the weekend. Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo, Bryant and Castro combined for 11 hits in Monday’s victory over the Pirates (6-7).
“Our offense is going to win us a ton of games this year,” Jake Arrieta said after limiting the Pirates to one run across seven innings. “Because we’ve got a special lineup. It’s a lot of young players, but with the addition of Bryant now, it takes a little pressure off (everyone). Overall, we’re moving in an incredibly solid direction. It’s just fun to be a part of this.”