Cubs stay cautious with Addison Russell and scratch Kris Bryant from lineup

Cubs stay cautious with Addison Russell and scratch Kris Bryant from lineup

ST. LOUIS – The Cubs are being protective of Addison Russell, hoping their All-Star shortstop’s sore right shoulder doesn’t develop into a disabled-list situation. 

“I don’t think that it’s up to that yet,” Russell said Friday before playing catch at Busch Stadium. “As far as it feels right now, I think we’re on the lighter side of maybe one or two more days.”

Manager Joe Maddon rested Russell and later used him as a pinch-hitter during a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Russell – who hadn’t thrown a baseball in three days – said it felt like something that had been building more than getting injured on a specific play.

“I really wanted to play, but I think we both feel that it’s better if we just take this slow,” Russell said. “It’s still early in the season. You don’t want this stuff to linger or get worse.

“So if we tend to it right now – and make sure we knock it out and be on the precautious side of it – then I think in the long run it’s going to be better for us.”

The Cubs have the luxury of plugging in one of the game’s most electric defenders at shortstop – Javier Baez – and being patient with a Gold Glove finalist who so far hasn’t matched last year’s 21-homer, 95-RBI pace.

“I’m just waiting to hear how he feels,” Maddon said. “I just wanted to be a little bit overly cautious. If you have a sore arm, sore shoulder, I’ve always (felt that way), especially with a young man like that and the position that he plays.”

• Reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant became a late lineup scratch after coming down with a stomach illness. Ex-Cardinal Jon Jay hit second and started in right field before leaving the game after one inning with back spasms. Maddon already ruled out Bryant for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Cardinals.

“Literally last second,” Maddon said. “I’m talking to him on the steps (and) I’m just trying to joke with him and he’s not joking back, so I knew something was not right.

“I had to do the scribble thing on the lineup card and take it up there.”

• Jason Heyward – who’s dealing with a sprained finger on his right hand – took swings off a tee, plans to do flip drills on Saturday and hopes to be activated from the disabled list when the Cubs begin next week’s homestand at Wrigley Field. 

Albert Almora leaning on perspective to push through struggles

Albert Almora leaning on perspective to push through struggles

These are commonly called the dog days of summer, and after having played through roughly two-thirds of the season, especially so for baseball players. For Albert Almora, Jr. batting fifth in Wednesday's lineup, this tough stretch of the year has been made even tougher thanks to a prolonged slump.

Almora is hitting just barely above .200 over the last thirty days. August has been even worse, at .185 going in to Wednesday's game against the Brewers. But despite these struggles, Almora is working to keep it all in perspective so that he can turn things around.

"The mental grind of it is obviously overwhelming at times, but if you’re struggling a little bit or seem not to be having a lot of luck, you just think of the positives day in and day out of what you go through," Almora said.

Admitting that this is sometimes easier said than done, Almora said that it helps being on a team that does a very good job of turning the page when things go badly. 

A big help in not letting his struggles at the plate weigh on him too heavily, Almora said, has been his family. Almora and his wife Krystal have a son, AJ, who was born late in the 2016 season, and she is pregnant with their second child. A health scare for her took Almora away from the team for a couple of days in mid-July. Thankfully all turned out well, but it's the kind of thing that puts anyone's life into perspective.

"You rely on family. Obviously my son’s a big part. He’s at a point where he just wants to play with Dad, and we have a lot of fun," Almora said. "He doesn’t really care, and that puts it into perspective for me. I go home, at the end of the day it’s just a game."

All the same, the task of preparing day in and day out and trying to stay productive in the midst of a period of struggle isn't easy when the hard contact he's making lands in gloves rather than grass or among the bleacher faithful. 

"You always try to think about it as a game," Almora said. "This is a game we’ve been playing since we were kids, but it does get away from you at times. You press for a little bit, so it does wear on you a little bit if you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to."

But there are positive signs for Almora. After striking out in a pinch-hit appearance on Tuesday, he drew two walks the next day. And whether the slump continues or not, he hasn't lost faith in himself.

"I have confidence in myself that I’m pretty good at this," Almora said. "And I’ll be alright."

Cubs trade for speedy outfielder Terrance Gore

Cubs trade for speedy outfielder Terrance Gore

The Cubs made a move Wednesday morning with the Royals to acquire elite base-stealer OF Terrance Gore for cash considerations, adding a potential speed threat for the postseason. 

The 27-year-old Gore wasn't on the Royals 40-man roster and will report to Triple-A Iowa, but could end up carving a role with the Cubs once the rosters expand in September. Gore is a four-year veteran who has yet to register a hit but has managed to swipe 21 out of 25 potential stolen bases during his four years in Kansas City. 

Our own Tony Andracki compared the Gore deal to the Red Sox acquiring Dave Roberts, who played a similar role for Boston on their 2004 Championship team. For what it's worth, Gore has played in 8 total postseason games, stealing 4 bases and only being caught once. 

Gore will have to show he can provide more than just speed on the basepaths to be added to the postseason roster, but with the Cubs ranking in the bottom portion of team stolen bases, adding Gore does provide game-changing speed - a valuable asset late in a playoff game.