Addison Russell’s fielding keeps slumping, aching shortstop in Cubs’ lineup
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PITTSBURGH — Shortstop Addison Russell has been the poster child for the Cubs’ offensive woes in recent weeks.
And no matter how much of his struggling has been caused by lingering pain from the finger injury suffered in June, Russell figures to remain a fixture in the Cubs’ regular lineup, manager Joe Maddon said.
“I know the hand’s bothering him more than he’s saying,” Maddon said. “But then again, even if he’s not doing a whole lot [at the plate], look what he’s doing out [in the field]. We’ve won these games based on defense more than offense. So I want to be very careful with that.”
The Cubs scored exactly one run — all on solo home runs — in each game during their four-game series split in Pittsburgh. They were shut out twice in a five-game span just before that and avoided a third in that stretch when David Bote delivered that instant-classic walk-off grand slam against the Nationals.
“It’s tolerable,” Russell said after coming off the bench on a double switch and doubling in the 11th inning of the Cubs’ 2-1 loss to the Pirates on Sunday. “If I can go, I’m probably going to go. If I can’t, I’ll let Joe know.”
Russell, who was picked off third when the Pirates pitched out on a safety squeeze later in the 11th, isn’t the only one struggling in the lineup.
But he’s in the longest, deepest funk, one of the reasons he was out of the lineup Sunday just ahead of Monday’s scheduled day off.
“I do like his swings better the last couple of days,” Maddon said.
The double was just the second extra-base hit for Russell in the last month.
After heading into July 4 with a .286 average and a .357 on-base percentage, Russell has hit just .202 with a .259 on-base percentage and a .248 slugging percentage since —until the double. He had 26 hits and 29 strikeouts in that stretch.
But Maddon pointed to the job his fielders have done to help the Cubs win nine of their last 15 despite the team’s hitting slump, including a pair of 1-0 games in Pittsburgh that secured the split in a series in which they were outscored 5-4.
“It’s hard to get him off the field, man,” Maddon said. “When you watch the way the defense is playing on the infield it’s hard to envision that on a consistent basis without him.”
Russell said the knuckle tends to feel better after a day off.
“That’s why I’m looking forward to coming in Tuesday and feeling good,” he said. “I talked to the doctor, and he said it’s probably going to linger around for the rest of the season. But I’m fine. I can play.”
Notes: Third baseman Kris Bryant (shoulder), who could impact the infield calculus when he returns from the DL in the next couple of weeks, takes his next big step in his rehab process Wednesday, when he faces live pitching on the field before the game in Detroit.
• Mike Montgomery, who’s on the DL with a sore shoulder, said he expects to throw again Tuesday to test the shoulder but wasn’t ready to say he’d be ready to return in time to start Saturday when his turn comes up again in the rotation.
• MLB announced that the Cubs will face the Pirates in the 2019 Little League Classic on Aug. 18 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.