Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell will be out at least three more weeks due to suffering a setback in his recovery from a foot injury, an MRI revealed on Thursday.
Russell, who last played in a game for the Cubs on August 2nd, is dealing with what Jesse Rogers of ESPN described as a ‘severe’ case of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Russell suffered his setback while on minor league rehab with Triple-A Iowa. Russell was scratched from what would’ve been his second game of rehab with the Iowa Cubs, and flown back to Chicago to be examined by team physicians.
Javier Baez has been filling in for Russell as the Cubs’ starting shortstop, and while he’s done an excellent job there, Cubs manager Joe Maddon knows how thin they are at shortstop right now, with Baez the only player on the Cubs active roster with meaningful major league experience playing shortstop besides Ben Zobrist, who currently has to handle various positions as it is.
“You look at the shortstop position and Javy is doing a wonderful job but after that it becomes different, so we were counting on this to happen,” Maddon said. “Addy [Russell] getting back quickly, hopefully it’s not anything prolonged. That’s such an important position. Just imagine without either one of them out there. Very difficult to imagine.”
In the worst case scenario where Baez were to get injured, the Cubs would likely have to turn to either Kris Bryant or Ian Happ at shortstop. Happ has been taking grounders at shortstop recently, and Bryant has moved all-around the field for the Cubs, so it would be possible to see him get action at short.
With MLB rosters expanding today, the Cubs are expected to add shortstop Mike Freeman to their roster to maybe serve as Baez’s main back-up before Russell returns, which would send Baez back to second base. Freeman was signed by the Cubs three weeks ago after the Dodgers released him after taking the 30-year-old off of their 40-man roster.
It should also be noted that Tommy La Stella has been big in Russell’s absence, providing the Cubs with depth off the bench. La Stella has even drawn several starts at second base recently, which has sent Zobrist to the outfield on occasion.
For now though, Chicago will continue to trot out the main defensive lineup in Russell’s absence as Anthony Rizzo at first base, Zobrist at second base, and then Baez at shortstop and Bryant at third base. The outfield traditionally will be Kyle Schwarber, Happ, and Jason Heyward on most days, with Jon Jay and Albert Almora all getting in the mix.
Alex Avila will continue to be the team’s main catcher as Wilson Contreras remains on the mend, with Rene Rivera as the main backup. Contreras has recently begun catching and agility drills again, but will still likely need a couple of more weeks before returning from the 10-day disabled list.
The 23-year-old Russell is slashing .241/.305/.417 on the year with 10 homers, 36 RBIs, and 14 defensive runs saved at shortstop this year, while posting a .968% fielding percentage.
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