When Spring Training ended, the Iowa Cubs expected to have Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell in its lineup for the home opener. Due to Bryant’s call-up and Baez on leave, Russell was the only one of the three that took the field Friday night in front of 12,669 fans at Principal Park, the largest crowd for a home opener in team history.
Addison Russell made his second consecutive start at second base. Russell went 0-for-4 in Iowa’s 3-2 loss to Darwin Barney and the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Even with the 0-for at the plate, Russell is 11-for-35 in eight games (.314/.324/.457) with two doubles and one home run for a .781 OPS.
Iowa manager, Marty Pevey told the Des Moines Register after the game that Addison Russell will “be a full-time second baseman right now.” Pevey thinks Russell is a “big league shortstop,” which falls in line with what anyone thinks that has seen Russell play the position. Pevey pointed out to Tommy Birch that Russell’s range at shortstop “is just incredible.”
Theo Epstein said Friday that Russell would probably play second base throughout the weekend. Epstein said the team will “see how it goes” with Russell at second base. Epstein explained due to injuries at the big league level in the infield, the Cubs have “had to shuffle some things.”
Theo Epstein pointed out Russell has been having good at bats for Iowa and has turned in several excellent plays in the field.
Multiple reports have suggested the Cubs see Russell as their shortstop of the future. Patrick Mooney added to those reports Friday, “People around the Cubs say Russell is the real deal, a potential franchise shortstop who will force big questions about what to do with Starlin Castro.”
Will injuries and ineffectiveness speed up Russell’s arrival to the big leagues? Stay tuned, the Addison Russell Watch has begun.
The Cubs assigned LHP Tsuyoshi Wada to Triple-A Iowa on Friday and the lefty began his rehab assignment with a 4 2/3 inning start, and loss, to the Dodgers. Wada allowed a Chris Heisey solo home run and three other hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Wada threw 81 pitches, 54 for strikes.
Wada can be on a rehab assignment for 30 days. But he may be closer to returning from the DL with an 81-pitch outing on Friday night.
The Cubs pitching depth has taken a hit and Tsuyoshi Wada working his way back is a positive for team that could use one on the injury front.
Javier Baez is not ready to come off the bereavement list. And Marty Pevey told the Des Moines Register that he doesn’t know when Baez will return.
Baez was set to rejoin the Iowa Cubs this week according to a report from the Sun-Times, but that is not the case. Baez is on leave to be with his family after the death of his sister last week.
Theo Epstein said Friday that Baez is getting close to returning but he still has some family matters to deal with before he is ready to play.
Minor News and Notes
• As expected, Christian Villanueva was promoted to Iowa prior to Friday’s game. Villanueva went 1-for-4 in his first game back at the Triple-A level. Villanueva was 5-for-24 in six games for Double-A Tennessee with two home runs, four walks and five strikeouts. Villanueva struggled last year in Iowa and put together a .211/.283/.372 line in 64 games before he switched spots with Kris Bryant. Villanueva was sent to Tennessee when Bryant was promoted to Iowa.
• Dan Vogelbach is off to an incredibly hot start. Vogelbach extended his hitting streak to eight games with hits in five of six at bats in Friday’s doubleheader. Vogelbach is 15-for-27 in eight games with four doubles, three strikeouts and six walks (.556/.636/.704) for a 1.340 OPS. Vogelbach has reached base in 21 of his 33 plate appearances on the young season.
• Theo Epstein discussed Gleyber Torres, Jake Stinnett and the new partnership with the South Bend Cubs.
• Manny Ramirez is still a big believer in Javier Baez according to a report from the Tribune. Ramirez is looking forward to working with Baez again.
• RHP Dallas Beeler is close to beginning a minor league rehab assignment according to the Tribune. Beeler is currently on the Major League 15-day disabled list.