Cubs still view Addison Russell’s status as ‘one day at a time’
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MESA, Ariz. — As spring training comes to a close, the Cubs aren’t prepared to suggest shortstop Addison Russell has achieved anything or made leaps-and-bounds progress in personal therapy or Major League Baseball-mandated work related to his domestic-violence suspension.
But what’s clear is they’re preparing for his return in May — when he becomes eligible — barring injury or another incident or allegation.
‘‘We’re going one day at a time, as is appropriate,’’ president Theo Epstein said Sunday, two days before the Cubs break camp and head to Texas for their regular-season opener Thursday against the Rangers.
‘‘It’s still not appropriate to talk about baseball when there are more important matters at hand with him. He continues to put in the most important work he’ll do in his career, which is his off-the-field matter and to make sure that he continues to grow as a person.’’
Russell has 28 games left on his 40-game suspension, which would make him eligible to return May 1, assuming no games are postponed.
Epstein said before camp began that Russell was ‘‘in the second inning’’ of his process for earning his way back on the field for the Cubs, regardless of MLB’s requirements.
‘‘At some point, the baseball metaphor becomes forced,’’ he said when he was asked where that stands six weeks later. ‘‘I don’t know. Third inning? . . .
‘‘My understanding of this type of work is that it’s a long-term endeavor. It’s not as if there’s some set of knowledge or some epiphany that people can come to, and all of a sudden the work is done. It’s a long-term process to grow as a person and ensure healthy relationships. That’s a process.’’
Teammates generally have been supportive this spring, and Russell has made himself available to the media throughout camp.
‘‘I’m put into a situation to where it’s uncomfortable and I am vulnerable, but at the end of the day, we’re just trying to become better,’’ Russell told the Sun-Times late in camp. ‘‘We make mistakes.’’
When the rest of the team leaves Arizona on Tuesday, Russell is to remain behind to continue with extended spring training.
Assuming the Cubs determine he’s still following through on commitments to the process, he would be eligible for a seven-game minor-league assignment leading up to his eligible return date.
‘‘The process of him perhaps returning and playing a major-league game for the Cubs, that’s one thing,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘But his process of continuing to grow and be the best partner and citizen and father that he can be, that’s an ongoing process, a long-term process.’’
NOTES: Infielder Daniel Descalso, who has been slowed by a sore shoulder this spring, fared well in a second consecutive day with five at-bats on the minor-league side of camp.
After batting as the designated hitter Saturday, Descalso moved around the infield defensively Sunday, just ahead of a return to big-league action.
• In his first game since nailing down the final bench job — barring a last-minute acquisition — outfielder Mark Zagunis celebrated with a double, a single, two walks and three runs scored in the Cubs’ 24-6 rout of the Padres. He has a 1.178 OPS this spring.