Addison Russell offers the only good news on a bad day at Wrigley
Shortstop Addison Russell was on the field running and doing agility drills before the game Saturday against the Brewers.
He strolled into the clubhouse afterward, drenched in sweat, and told reporters: “I feel great.”
That’s good news for the Cubs and Russell, who’s in his second week of a three-week recovery from a strained right foot and plantar fasciitis. Russell has been on the disabled list since Aug. 2.
“It’s going pretty smoothly,” Russell said. “Third day in a row running, and each day I come in, my foot’s feeling better. The workload is packing on, but my foot’s feeling a lot better, and that’s looking pretty positive.”
Russell’s optimism was the last piece of good news for the Cubs, though. The Brewers scored eight runs in the third inning on the way to a 15-2 victory at Wrigley Field, putting them three games behind the Cubs in the National League Central.
Russell is able to comfortably run side to side and shuffle. His general movement, he said, is coming along well, but he hasn’t tried on a pair of cleats yet.
There are at least two reasons Russell won’t rush his return and come back before he’s 100 percent healthy. The Cubs are in a playoff race and can’t afford to miss a step. Second, Russell wants to feel confident, mentally and physically, when he takes the field.
“The last week of games is pretty crucial,” he said. “It’s a pretty tough division. I need to make sure I’m 100 percent, and we’ll just go from there. The baseball is going to play out. . . . [I’m] making sure my muscles are ready for in-game play, making sure my mind’s ready for in-game play and just mentally being ready as well.”
Once Russell is 100 percent, the question for manager Joe Maddon will be how and when to bring him back into the mix. The minor-league season is over, so Russell won’t be able to rehab at Class AAA Iowa.
The Cubs were in a similar situation last year with Kyle Schwarber, who missed nearly all of the regular season but returned for the World Series. Schwarber trained at the Cubs’ facility in Arizona, then played games in the Arizona Fall League to get some swings in.
Russell admitted he didn’t know what the tail end of his recovery would look like.
“The ground balls, throwing it, running it, that’s pretty much just regular work,” Maddon said. “It’s the actual seeing pitches, timing, reaction stuff that will be different. There’s ways to get it done, but it’s not the same as in actual games. But you get as close as you can.”
The Cubs’ depth has helped them maintain their position in the standings despite some major injuries in the second half.
Mike Montgomery made his fourth consecutive start, filling in this time for Jake Arrieta. He made a few spot starts for Jon Lester while he was out with a lat injury, and he’ll get another start in place of Arrieta on Thursday.
Montgomery gave up only four runs in 18 innings in his previous three starts before struggling to get an out in the third inning against the Brewers. He allowed four runs, two hits and four walks in two innings.
At catcher, midseason acquisitions Alex Avila and Rene Rivera have filled in ably for Willson Contreras, who’s out with a hamstring injury.
Javy Baez has plugged the hole for Russell. He’s hitting .278 with seven home runs since Russell’s injury.
“[Baez is] great wherever he plays,” Russell said. “He’s an athlete, he’s going to make the big plays. The team’s very fortunate to have him. He’s someone I can learn from here and there.”
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