Addison Russell did not garner the attention in Spring Training he deserved and has quietly gone about learning how to play in the big leagues as Comcast SportsNet reported. Calling Russell up in April was not part of the Cubs plans in the spring but injuries and other circumstances led to Russell making his debut much earlier than anticipated.
Addison Russell is learning how to play second base in the big leagues. He has made several sensational plays while at times showing his limited experience at the position and communication issues with Starlin Castro.
At the plate, the 21-year old Russell extended his hitting streak to 10 games during Thursday’s finale in St. Louis. Russell leads the Cubs in doubles (6) after just 14 games. And eight of his 14 hits (six doubles, two home runs) have gone for extra bases. In 14 games, Russell is 14-for-53 (.264/.291/.491) with a .781 OPS.
Russell is making adjustments and while the strikeout to walk ratio (24 strikeouts, two walks) is not where it needs to be, he is 9-for-25 in his last seven games (.360/.385/.720) with three doubles, two home runs and a 1.105 OPS.
Joe Maddon has batted Russell in the nine-hole of his lineup since his call-up. Maddon does not plan on moving Russell out of that spot in the lineup.
The biggest difference in Russell of late, according to Maddon, “He has exhaled.”
“This kid is finally showing up, meaning that sometimes their body gets off an airplane to come to the big leagues but their brain doesn’t. They’re not able to be themselves. I think he’s finally accepting where he is. He’s finally getting that real sense of I belong here.”
“With that, there is more of smoothness to his game. It’s not as robotic or choppy. The swings have gotten a lot quicker, a lot shorter, a lot handsyer, not army and long,” Maddon said. “The defense, we still have a little bit of a problem going to his backhand side, which we expected, and him and Jonesy [Gary Jones] are working on that a lot.”
Maddon explained that once Russell started to relax there were immediate results on the field and he has seen steady improvement that was sparked with casual conversation.
“I walked up to him and asked him, ‘Where are you living?’ And he told me where he is living. And I said, ‘Where are you going out to dinner tonight?’ And he really didn’t have any idea of where he was going to go to dinner that night and I said, ‘Well, I’ve gotten to know some people around here. If you need some help, let me know.’ I just wanted to talk to him conversationally and get him to become Addison Russell the human being living in Chicago playing baseball.”
“I mean, that’s what you’ve got to do. So since that, really just that moment, he has come up to me and asked me where I’ve been eating now,” Maddon said. “So now it turns into a conversation. It becomes normal. It becomes comfortable. I belong here. It’s not about more reps in the cage or groundballs or getting upset with this young man. It’s about trying to help him normalize the situation. I’m telling you the conversation has gotten more easy and normal and he’s smiling, for real, it’s not like this forced smile.”
Joe Maddon has maintained since day one that conversation with the players and gaining their trust is keys to the overall success of the team.
“The biggest thing I think you are going to see in the really near future is him starting to hit the ball like you are accustomed to,” Maddon said. “Primarily because the guy has exhaled. He’s here. I know I belong here.”
“He is starting to breath better and with that you’re going to see an even higher level of play.”