Cubs SS Addison Russell survives trade winds to sail into spring at full speed
MESA, Ariz. — Will shortstop Addison Russell win a Gold Glove this year? Hit 20 home runs again? Become an All-Star again?
At this point, he’ll just take playing a full season again and getting off to a good start.
After all, a few months ago, he couldn’t be sure he’d even be back with the Cubs.
“There was a lot of trade talk,” said Russell, who was one of three or four young core position players linked to various trade talks during the winter.
One rival team official said the Cubs made Russell available in multiple trade scenarios.
“My initial thoughts were, ‘I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table
here,’ ’’ said Russell, who struggled through injuries last season that limited him to 110 games while also playing under the cloud of a domestic-violence allegation that arose in June.
“It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform,” he said. “I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure.”
In fact, none of the position-player core was traded. After team president Theo Epstein said in October that a trade was possible because the Cubs needed to add so much pitching, he was able to fill his pitching needs entirely through free agency.
Russell said he’s not surprised the Cubs tried to keep the core -intact.
“Who would want to break that up?” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing. Javy [Baez] and I in the middle. [Kyle] Schwarber sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And [Kris Bryant] over there in the hot corner. And, of course, [Anthony] Rizzo at first. And you’ve got a Gold Glover [Jason Heyward] in right field.
“It’s really hard to break that up.”
Russell, the starting shortstop for the National League in the 2016 All-Star Game, is all the way back from a lengthy foot injury, he said, and is on a strength and maintenance program for a troublesome throwing shoulder that has cost him time the last two years.
“The body feels good. The mind feels good,” he said. “I’m looking forward to starting off the spring 100 percent.”
Manager Joe Maddon said he expects a big bounce-back season from Russell, with the arm -program and continued maturation at the plate the keys.
Russell said his struggles last year have put a chip on his shoulder.
“Absolutely,” he said “Especially with the injuries. I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed. Going into this year, it’s just mainly staying level-headed and then also staying healthy and producing and being out there on that field.”
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