Chicago Cubs: Addison Russell nearing a return to big-league club

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is nearing a return from his foot injury, but shouldn’t necessarily step right back into a starting role.

After working out prior to Tuesday night’s game in Cincinnati, Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell believes he’s ‘climbing the ladder’ back to health.

"“I think two weeks is too long,” Russell told “I would say a week and a half at the most … “It’s starting to feel like my normal foot.”"

Russell has not appeared in game action since Aug. 2 due to his foot injury. Prior to his being sidelined, he owned a .241 average and .722 OPS on the year.  That’s fairly close to his .238 average and .738 OPS he posted during his breakout 2016 campaign. Injuries, however, have taken their toll on the young shortstop.

And in wake of his most recent disabled list stint, Javier Baez has stepped up and delivered.

In the month of August, the Puerto Rican native is batting .290/.329/.638 – good for a .966 OPS. Time and time again, he’s come up with a big hit, hustled out a critical play and done anything asked of him. With over a week left in the month, Baez has already clubbed seven home runs and driven in 19 runs.

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In 31 second-half games, the slugger has 10 home runs. By contrast, in 78 first-half contests, he hit the same 10 long-balls. If you split the season at the All-Star Break, Baez has an OPS 200 points higher since the Midsummer Classic.

To be blunt, he’s earned a starting gig.

Time to consider the team

When asked Tuesday, Maddon insisted Russell will retain his starting role when he returns. By all indications, that date won’t come till early September. But it no doubt sits heavy on the Cubs’ skipper’s mind.

Sure, Russell should get his job back. It’s hardly his fault he’s injured. But how can you take away the role from Baez given what he’s done in the last two months? You can’t.

So the question is this: do you work Russell in to a hybrid role? Or is Baez headed back for a super utility role? There are multiple ways this could play out, but know this: Javy is going to be in the lineup on a regular basis. A very regular basis.

Against lefties, Baez has not been nearly as effective in 2017. Unfortunately, Russell has been just as bad, if not worse, against southpaws. So a typical lefty-righty matchup game isn’t likely. Instead, guys like Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ appear destined for smaller roles.

Next: Cubs inching closer to top of MLB pecking order

Addison Russell has a lot to offer this team. He is an elite defender and showed last year what he can do with the bat. But Javier Baez has carried this team of-late and, given he’s shown no signs of slowing down, he’s going to be a fixture for the rest of the season.