Chicago Cubs: Cubs should take things slow with Addison Russell
A setback has prevented Cubs SS Addison Russell from returning from the DL on time. Now expected to be out at least three more weeks, the emergence of Javy Báez, among other reasons, means there’s no rush to bring him back.
When Addison Russell went down with plantar fasciitis in early August, Cubs fans were understandably worried. The stud SS was having a difficult season at the plate, but his slick defense was always going to be missed.
Now he’s out for at least another three weeks. The 23-year-old was set to return this weekend had he not re-aggravated his injury. With the timetable for his return now set to late-September, in addition to other factors, there’s no need to rush him back.
We all know that Russell isn’t having the type of season he did last year. A season after mashing 21 homers and driving in 95 runs, he’s at 10 and 36, respectively. While the RBI numbers were always an anomaly, his 2017 has still been disappointing. Throw in the allegations of domestic violence and the year couldn’t have gone any worse for the young shortstop.
What’s unfortunate is that before Russell went down he was having a nice little stretch of games. From July 19 – August 2 he batted .318 with five doubles. Now he hasn’t played in almost a month, and the Cubs shouldn’t push things to bring him back. Not with Báez playing the way he is.
Here comes El Mago
The Cubs needed Javier Báez to step up when Russell went down, and he answered the call. The month of August was when he turned into El Mago (The Magician), posting a slash line of .290/.339/.523 with seven homers and 25 RBI. He increased his contact numbers greatly, and is looking like a lock to be an every game starter once the playoffs roll around.
And Russell? Honestly, it would be nice to see him for a few games before the postseason, just to see if he’s ready for an everyday role. However with Báez playing lights out the team knows they can’t afford to cut his playing time when the division is far from secured.
Joe Maddon said that Russell would slide back into the starting role once he comes back, but there shouldn’t be an absolute answer to this question so soon. With the way Russell’s been playing all year, perhaps a platoon would suffice until he separates himself from the likes of Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ. That doesn’t seem likely though, especially since the latter’s having a great season.
So what is the answer to the Russell question? It’s not an easy one, but the Cubs should tread carefully. Plantar fasciitis is notorious for its false sense of wellness. Athletes can feel certain that they’re back to full health, only to end up back in the training room after one game. Sports Illustrated once dubbed it ‘the most maddening injury in sports.’
Easy does it
Level of play aside, easing Russell back into the lineup is more about his safety than anything. The organization obviously want him to be their shortstop of the future. Rushing a struggling player back only to have him re-injure himself again is the absolute worst-case scenario – one that the Cubs should avoid at all cost.
If Russell isn’t ready by the time three weeks is over, so be it. The team has other options who’re playing better, and a healthy Russell would only make them stronger come postseason time.
Next: Breaking down Schwarber's first full big league campaign
The Cubs are lucky that their depth has given them the luxury of being able to weather Russell’s DL stint. That depth is just one of many reasons why Addison Russell should be eased back into the lineup. October glory could hinge on it.