Cubs shortstop Addison Russell aggravated his foot injury during his minor-league rehab assignment, a setback that could push his return from the disabled list back by two weeks or more.
Russell, who has been on the DL for the last month with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, was scratched from a start with Class AAA Iowa on Wednesday night and was to return to Chicago to be examined Thursday by team orthopedist Stephen Gryzlo.
“It’s not ideal,” said general manager Jed Hoyer, who wouldn’t speculate on how close to the end of the season the setback could push Russell’s return. “I don’t think we know enough at this point.”
The news was a significant blow to a team that holds a 3½-game lead over the second-place Brewers with 30 games to play and counted on a return to full strength for a successful playoff push.
“Of course Javy [Baez is] doing a wonderful job, but after that it becomes different,” manager Joe Maddon said of Russell’s replacement, who has played daily at short since Russell went on the DL.
“We were counting on Addy getting back quickly. Hopefully, it’s not going to be anything prolonged. That’s such an important position.”
With Russell’s return pushed back indefinitely, Maddon already has talked with veteran Ben Zobrist about spot duty at short to give Baez a breather. Baez said he’s prepared to keep playing every day.
“I’ll do my best to help the team,” said Baez, who wound up with a steal of home during the 17-3 victory over the Pirates after a missed squeeze bunt in the second inning. “Addy’s a big part of the team. Hopefully, he keeps working on getting better and gets back soon.”
Russell had been expected to return from the DL within the next week. He went 1-for-3 with a double Monday in his first rehab game and looked good in his four innings in the field.
“So much of last season and even 2015 was fueled by great defense, and that starts with Addison and Javy,” Hoyer said. “A big part of our success has been those two guys playing defense.
“Guys have stepped up and played well, but it’s just so hard replacing them.”
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