Cubs

Ex-Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez is speeding up the timetable on White Sox

Ex-Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez is speeding up the timetable on White Sox

ORLANDO, Fla. — The White Sox are beginning to understand what the Cubs already knew about Eloy Jimenez, a young right-handed power hitter who drew comparisons to Kris Bryant, Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Martinez.

No pressure. But Jimenez reported to big-league camp with the defending World Series champs and thought he could leave Arizona with a spot on the Opening Day roster, a sign of his confidence, natural talent and sense of belonging.

Jimenez started 2017 with advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach, but he still wound up saving their season by showing enough potential that the Cubs could make him the headliner in the blockbuster Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox during the All-Star break.

Now one of the most interesting pieces to the White Sox rebuild is in the Dominican Winter League, roughly 1,000 miles away from the general manager meetings at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, representing one of the game’s strongest farm systems.

“The biggest lockbox whenever you make an acquisition,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday, “is what you’re getting from a makeup standpoint. Scouts do a tremendous job digging and getting as much background information as they can.

“But until you actually have him on campus and see how he works and goes about his business day in and day out, you don’t really know. We had positive reports, (but) I don’t think we fully appreciated the magnetic element of Eloy’s personality and how well he plays in the clubhouse and how diligent he is about his work.”

Hahn has seen the video of Jimenez with Gigantes del Cibao, where he’s hitting .365 with four homers, two triples, five doubles and 20 RBIs through 17 games. That is building off his first Double-A exposure in August and September, when Jimenez put up a .956 OPS in 73 plate appearances.

“Eloy might be forcing our timetable a little bit,” Hahn said. “You obviously have a young kid who’s 21 years old and has only been above A-ball for about 20 games. But in a short period of time in Birmingham, he made that ballpark look small.

“He’s obviously had a wonderful stay so far in winter ball. We’ll see him in big-league camp. I’m sure he’s going to continue to open eyes and impress not just with what the performance is on the field, but his work ethic and how he goes about his business, which has been equally as impressive since we got him.”

All this means Jimenez could be coming to the South Side sooner rather than later, right when the Cubs-Sox rivalry should be heating up again and Chicago baseball fans will be expecting October baseball at two different Red Line stops.

“It’s reasonable to have a development plan that has him in Double-A for the entire year next year,” Hahn said. “And if he does well, that’s a very fine year and age appropriate. That said ... the good ones have a way of sort of forcing your hand on it.

“What we’ve seen from Eloy in this short period of time that we’ve had him already, he may be forcing our hand a little bit.”

Addison Russell releases statement, calls abuse allegations 'completely false'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell releases statement, calls abuse allegations 'completely false'

Addison Russell responded to the allegations that he physically and psychologically abused his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy.

In a statement released Friday night, Russell called the allegations against him "completely false," stating that he is confident that an investigation will exonerate him.

"These allegations are completely false. I made that clear to Major League Baseball last year and reiterated it to the Cubs today," Russell said in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Player's Assocation. "I'm confident any full and fair investigation will fully exonerate me. The protection of my children is foremost in my mind so I will have no further comment."

Reidy released a blog post late Thursday night detailing years of physical, emotional and psychological abuse that she experienced while married to Russell. The Cubs released a statement early Friday, saying they would "cooperate with the League's investigation so the appropriate action can be taken."

Cubs president Theo Epstein and owner Tom Ricketts held a press conference before Friday's game against the White Sox, saying that while the timing of the situation is not ideal, it does not matter.

"Any time there are accusations of this nature, they have to be taken very seriously and timing or inconvenience doesn't play into it," Epstein said. "All parties have an obligation to get to a just and fair resolution and if that includes discipline if appropriate, then so be it. If it doesn't, then so be it.

"But the important thing here is that justice and fairness is ultimately found. Timing is not ideal, but it doesn't matter. What matters is getting to a just and fair resolution and we're supportive of the league's step."

Baseball comes second for Cubs in Addison Russell situation

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USA TODAY

Baseball comes second for Cubs in Addison Russell situation

Two years after Theo Epstein sat in the visiting dugout on the South Side addressing the Cubs' trade for Aroldis Chapman in the same season he was suspended by Major League Baseball for domestic violence, the president of baseball operations once again had to touch on a similar topic in the same ballpark.

Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave early Friday afternoon, hours after a blog post surfaced from his ex-wife detailing physical and psychological abuse throughout their relationship.

"Disturbing" is how Epstein described Melisa Reidy's account when he saw it late Thursday night and said he immediately reached out to MLB's investigative body to see if they could verify any of the details.

Epstein and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts had a phone call with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the league office Friday morning, during which it was revealed the league would be placing Russell on administrative leave.

Russell can remain on leave for up to seven days and that leave can be extended by the league if need be after that time.

Epstein and Ricketts then met with Russell to inform him of the league's decision and questioned the shortstop on the details in Reidy's post.

"He reaffirmed his stance that he did not do what he is accused of having done," Epstein said.

The Cubs have no idea if Russell will play again this season as the team is in the midst of a tight pennant race in the final 10 days of September. But they also acknowledge baseball comes second in a time like this.

"Any time there are accusations of this nature, they have to be taken very seriously and timing or inconvenience doesn't play into it," Epstein said. "All parties have an obligation to get to a just and fair resolution and if that includes discipline if appropriate, then so be it. If it doesn't, then so be it.

"But the important thing here is that justice and fairness is ultimately found. Timing is not ideal, but it doesn't matter. What matters is getting to a just and fair resolution and we're supportive of the league's step."

There's not much the Cubs can do over the next week, as the matter "is in the league's court to do the investigation," Ricketts said.

Joe Maddon addressed the team with Epstein and Ricketts before Friday's game and has shifted his focus toward trying to win ballgames with the rest of the roster, stepping back to let the league handle the matter.

Between Epstein, Ricketts and Maddon, the word "process" was brought up over and over again in more than 20 minutes of press conferences.

Step 1 in that process was Russell being placed on administrative leave. Step 2 is the fact-finding mission as the league attempts to verify the "disturbing" claims.

The league opened an investigation on Russell last June after a domestic violence allegation was brought to light in a comment by Reidy's friend on an Instagram post. The comment was later deleted and Reidy did not cooperate with the MLB investigation, though the investigation remained open and Epstein admitted he has checked in with the league from time to time about the matter.

Russell spent only a couple days away from the team last June and was not placed on any official leave.

There is no word yet on if Reidy will cooperate with MLB's investigation this time around.

"Last year, it was a third-party accusation on social media," Epstein said. "And now, this is a direct accusation from the accuser, from the potential victim. The situation has changed. He was not placed on administrative leave last year. He was away from the team briefly, but we think this step is appropriate in light of the post."

Despite the accusation last June, reading the comments from Reidy's blog post was jarring for everybody involved.

"It always is," Maddon said, "whether it's on the baseball team, in your own personal family, wherever you may work. That just seems to be the way things are today."

The Cubs distanced themselves from making any sort of statement on Russell's character away from how they know him in a professional setting - as a ballplayer at the ballpark.

The next few days will determine Russell's standing with the Cubs and in the league for the rest of this season and possibly beyond.

"That balancing act that comes with an accusation and validating the rights of the accuser and providing an appropriate forum is something that's really difficult," Epstein said. "We don't have the answer for that, except that we know we have to take it as seriously as we possibly can to follow the process, because the process is designed to defend everyone's rights and to lead to a fair and just outcome."