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For the second straight year, Addison Russell's season should probably have an asterisk next to it.

After helping the Cubs win the 2016 World Series, Russell has had trouble staying healthy and even when he's been on the field, he's had to battle through injuries that have affected his play.

That's not to say injuries are an excuse or Russell is using his aches and pains as such. Throughout the course of a 162-game season, everybody has to deal with pain or injuries of some sort.

Last year it was plantar fasciitis and a right shoulder problem. This year, it's been the tricky knuckle injury on his left hand and then the shoulder injury cropped back up and ultimately landed him on the disabled list when the Cubs acquired Daniel Murphy last week.

Prior to injuring his hand, Russell was enjoying the best all-around season of his career. He's still an elite defender at shortstop, but he had been rated as one of the Top 10 baserunners in the game and also was hitting .286 with a .766 OPS as recently as July 1.

Since then, however, he's managed just a .209 batting average and .533 OPS in 144 plate appearances over 38 games.

It finally got to the point where it was clear Russell needed some time off to rest, which is what he has been doing mostly while on the disabled list.

Russell has been tracking pitches, but not swinging. He's taken some ground balls and threw from a little over 100 feet Wednesday morning after also tossing Tuesday afternoon, reporting that his shoulder is healing well.

 

The time off and treatment are helping his finger/hand, too, but it's a tricky injury.

"The finger is healing well," Russell said. "The thing with the finger, you never know when it's gonna flare up, but that stuff I've kinda been doing the whole season. So we'll just manage that. But the shoulder's feeling really good."

There's no timetable for when Russell will return or even when he'll take swings again and ramp up his baseball activity. 

The Cubs have the luxury of waiting it out with him, letting Javy Baez play shortstop and keeping David Bote as the backup at the position. Bote, Murphy, Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ have filled in the rest of the infield (apart from Anthony Rizzo at first) and Kris Bryant is also about to return.

Russell knows the Cubs still have more than a month left of action, so even though he is itching to get back out on the field, he understands the importance of rest and making sure he's right physically when he is dropped back into the pennant race.

Even with the recent time off and the injury, Russell still has the 10th-best Defensive Runs Saved in baseball, regardless of position. 

"That's what I take pride in," he said. "If things aren't going good at the plate, then I know I can control whatever's going on out there on the field. That's what I work hard for. I just take a lot of pride in that.

"I try to get better out there every day. Even if I'm sidelined, I feel like my brain's still working at shortstop — what to do in this situation. Runner on first and third — where should the ball go if it's hit to me? 

"Working out those situations whenever I'm out helps me get through the whole process a little easier."

The 24-year-old shortstop hasn't ever let on that his hand has been bothering him a bunch at the plate, but Joe Maddon said he thought it was an issue several times before Russell hit the shelf. 

Over a five-week stretch from July 11 through Aug. 19, Russell collected only 3 extra-base hits (all doubles) and drove in just 5 runs while striking out almost a quarter of the time. His last homer came June 29.

"Early on, it was pretty difficult [to hit with the hand injury]," Russell said. "When it initially happened, everything was flowing for me better in the box. So really, it's just like I said, I manage it, I go in and get my treatment and it's something I deal with."

When he does return, where will Russell fit in with this Cubs team?

Murphy figures to play a lot at second base in September and October, but he'll also need days off to rest after a knee injury forced him to miss most of the first half of the season.

Maddon wants to give Baez a breather here and there and Bryant won't be playing every single day when he comes up, either, as the Cubs will try to make sure his shoulder doesn't become an issue again.

 

Getting Russell back to the hitter he is capable of being would be a nice boost for this Cubs team in late September and into October.

At the very least, Russell's glove will be valuable, even if he comes in only for the latter innings to shore up the infield defense.

"I bring a lot of things to the table when it comes to my position and the role that I'm supposed to play," Russell said. "I take it with a grain of salt. The thing is, I haven't been as healthy as I wanted to be all year and I kinda put that on myself.

"I manage. I still go out there every single day. This is just a 10-day stint. I'm looking forward to being back out there."