‘Not far off,’ Cubs’ Joe Maddon says of Addison Russell’s return to big leagues

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Addison Russell speaks with media at at the Under Armour Performance Center, the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, AZ. 02-15-2019. | John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

The Cubs didn’t bring embattled infielder Addison Russell back into the big-league fold at their earliest opportunity, which would have been Friday, but he won’t have to wait much longer at Class AAA Iowa.

Not according to comments made by manager Joe Maddon before a 4-0 victory against the Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series at Wrigley Field, at least.

‘‘It’s not far off,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘It’s not far off, from what I understand. I’ve heard some good things. Typically, everybody wants to rush things. When you don’t have to rush things, it’s actually a better method, I think.’’

Russell, 25, hasn’t played in a big-league game since September. He was reactivated and optioned to Iowa upon the completion of his 40-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy.

With only seven minor-league games under his belt this season, Russell — who is getting work in at second base because of Javy Baez’s ascension at shortstop — might need more time on the field to be ready to rejoin the Cubs. And that’s not even getting into off-the-field concerns.

‘‘Get your at-bats, get your reps, make sure you’re not sore,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘How’s the arm playing? It’s everything, the whole game. It’s just about being fair to him, too, to make sure that he’s ready to go by the time he gets back up here.’’


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Dex is back

Former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and lined a leadoff single against winning pitcher Kyle Hendricks, raising his average to .321 in what has been a bounce-back season. Fowler had missed the Cardinals’ last three games with flulike symptoms.

Longtime pal Jason Heyward is pleased to see Fowler doing well, but he wasn’t about to admit it with the Cards in town.

‘‘Baseball is baseball,’’ Heyward said. ‘‘When we play baseball, we play against each other.’’

Hey, better

For the third consecutive season, the Cubs entered Game No. 29 with a 16-12 record. They lost No. 29 in 2017 and 2018, however.

De La Cruz reinstated

Pitching prospect Oscar De La Cruz’s 80-game suspension without pay for using performance-enhancing drugs is over. The 24-year-old right-hander was reinstated from the restricted list with plans to rejoin Class AA Tennessee, where he was 6-7 with a 5.24 ERA in 2018. He has made three rehab starts at Class A Myrtle Beach.

To make room for De La Cruz on the 40-man roster, the Cubs transferred veteran reliever Tony Barnette to the 60-day injured list after he experienced tightness in his right (pitching) shoulder while on a rehab assignment. Barnette’s 2018 season with the Rangers was cut short because of similar problems with the shoulder.

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