Cubs

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. 

Sports Talk Live: Cubs convention edition

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Scott Changnon

Sports Talk Live: Cubs convention edition

On the latest Sports Talk Live Podcast we join David Kaplan and Kelly Crull at the Chicago Cubs Convention for interviews with Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Kris Bryant and many more.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs understand fans' angst over slow winter, but insist they're working behind the scenes

Cubs understand fans' angst over slow winter, but insist they're working behind the scenes

Theo Epstein isn't trying out his hidden ball trick this winter.

He admitted as much during his annual press conference at Cubs Convention Friday evening at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, saying "it continues to be extremely unlikely" the Cubs will add a mega free agent this winter.

No, that wasn't one more ruse before the Cubs had Bryce Harper hop out from behind the curtain and run across the stage to surprise Cubs fans at Opening Ceremonies (a la Kerry Wood earlier this decade).

The only Harper descending upon Chicago was the winter storm creating Convention travel issues.

Obviously that's not what fans want to hear.

Epstein understands that. Joe Maddon understands that. The Cubs players understand that.

After a one-and-done playoff appearance last fall, Epstein sat at the podium during his season eulogy and passionately promised change coming for the team.

But we're three months into the offseason and the only notable addition to the roster is Daniel Descalso, a 32-year-old utility player.

"I'm not blind to that," Epstein said. "I get it. We've had meetings the last few days internally talking about the guys that we do have and the incredible talent that does exist in this organization and how we can learn from last year and continue to get the absolute most out of guys or take it to another level. 

"We have to be excused for being excited, because we are really optimistic about this season. But I completely get it from a fan's standpoint and I know there are a lot of questions out there. I actually appreciate that. Just to have fans that are as passionate about baseball and about winning and about the Cubs as we are, you can't take that for granted. 

"Even if the tone isn't what you always want sometimes, it's coming from the right place and it also reflects the fact that standards have been raised around here quite a bit. We're coming off a 95-win season, we've won more games than any other club the last four years and yet there are loud, legitimate questions from our fans. I think that's a good thing and I'm happy to provide answers the best I can. It just means there are fans who probably were with us through some pretty thin times who enjoyed the really good and even historic times with us and are eager for those to continue, as we are."

Epstein stopped short of calling fans "impatient" and corrected a reporter who used that term, instead calling the angst from fans "passion" and "expectations." 

The Cubs president of baseball operations has a reputation of being very aggressive during the offseason and not making a habit of resting on his laurels even after a successful season. 

Epstein and the Cubs have referenced their 95 wins in the regular season last year a lot this winter, but they also acknowledge they were caught from behind by the Brewers and didn't even make it to the National League Division Series.

This winter hasn't resulted in almost no change to the roster, but that doesn't mean the team won't be able to improve on last season.

"I understand the way things look from the outside in, especially in the winter," Epstein said. "We can't go out and win games in the winter and we can't go out and play hard in the winter. All we can do for the fans in the winter — in terms of public-facing — is adding players, and we haven't added as many players as we normally have. 

"But behind the scenes, there's an awful lot we do. I promise you and I promise our fans this is as hard as I've ever worked in an offseason. The results in terms of adding players aren't there. We think we've done a lot of good behind the scenes to learn some lessons from last year and try to put our best foot forward."