Why Joe Maddon won’t create a Cubs shortstop controversy with Javier Baez and Addison Russell

Why Joe Maddon won’t create a Cubs shortstop controversy with Javier Baez and Addison Russell

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is trying to defuse any shortstop controversy involving Addison Russell and Javier Baez, framing his lineup decisions with big-picture ideas like rest, rhythm and matchups.

But what if this up-the-middle rotation evolves and Baez becomes a more consistent offensive force to go with his game-changing defensive skills? Where would that leave Russell when – for whatever reason – he’s not playing like an All-Star shortstop? 

“I’m not looking to do that, honestly,” Maddon said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. “The one thing Addison really has and does well is that he does the routine routinely. He normally doesn’t make any mistakes, which I really appreciate that about him. 

“Javy’s got all the flair in the world. He’s really good. I’m not denying that. But it comes down to the nuts and bolts for me. I’ve talked about the first time I saw Addison take groundballs in spring training a couple years ago. I was kind of like going crazy. I asked him: ‘Who taught you?’ Because his mechanics are so good.

“Javy will have his tendency to stay back on the ball. Addison’s always playing through the ball. When it goes to his right, Addie has a really good ability to put his right foot down and make that throw. There are little things that Addison does at shortstop. He’s so perfectly taught.”
Baez still started at shortstop for the 12th time that night against the Miami Marlins – after making only 21 starts there all last season. Baez has a more classic shortstop arm than Russell and his instincts and range at second base have drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. 

Russell also isn’t performing like the guy FanGraphs credited with 19 defensive runs saved last year. He’s committed six errors through 50 games this season – after making 14 in 148 games last year – and not throwing with quite the same accuracy. The clutch hitter who put up 21 homers and 95 RBI during his age-22 season is now batting .209 with a .626 OPS. 

“He’s going to be back,” Maddon said. “As long as he’s healthy and well, he’s going to look like that again. I saw it way too much over the last two years. I can’t deny it – he has not played up to his standards to this point. But I have a lot of faith in this guy, because his mechanics, his fundamentals are that good for me.”

Amid rough patch, Cubs shake up their bullpen

Amid rough patch, Cubs shake up their bullpen

The Cubs bullpen has been under the microscope recently as they've hit another rough patch.

With Pedro Strop on the injured list, Cubs relievers have combined for a 5.04 ERA and 1.72 WHIP over the last week, allowing 32 hits and 11 walks against only 15 strikeouts in 25 innings.

The Cubs are shaking things up, sending veteran left-hander Xavier Cedeno to the injured list with left wrist inflammation and promoting right-hander Rowan Wick from Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs acquired Wick, 26, from the Padres back in November for minor leaguer Jason Vosler. Wick has pitched well in Triple-A Iowa this season — in 13 outings, he has a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP while striking out 25 batters in 19 innings. 

Of his 13 appearances, 7 have been of a multi-inning variety and he hasn't allowed a run in his last 3 games (6.2 innings).

Wick made 10 appearances for the Padres in San Diego last year, sporting a 6.48 ERA in 8.1 innings.

Cedeno, 32, signed with the Cubs just before spring training started, but has been hampered by the same wrist issue all spring. He was first activated off the injured list less than two weeks ago and did not give up a run in 5 appearances, though he surrendered 4 hits and 3 walks in just 2 total innings of work.

With Wick in tow, the Cubs bullpen now looks like this:

Steve Cishek
Brad Brach
Brandon Kintzler
Kyle Ryan
Mike Montgomery
Tyler Chatwood
Carl Edwards Jr.
Rowan Wick

Strop is working his way back from a hamstring injury and threw a 25-pitch bullpen Monday, so his return may not be far off. 

Brandon Morrow resumed his throwing program Monday, as well, but is still weeks away from returning even in a best-case scenario.

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2019 MLB Power Rankings: The AL West is weird, man

USA Today

2019 MLB Power Rankings: The AL West is weird, man

Sometimes, making these rankings can get repetitive. The Astros were the best team last week and they're the best team this week and they'll be the best team next week. When there's not a lot of variety, it can be more fun to focus in on who was the loser of the week. This week's definitive loser? The Mets. Congrats to you, the Mets. It's low hanging fruit, but sometimes you want to conserve energy. How'd everyone else do? To the rankings!