MIAMI – Injuries keep weighing the Cubs down as the defending World Series champs keep trying to finally take off this season.
The right shoulder that has been bothering Addison Russell off and on since at least spring training grounded the All-Star shortstop during Sunday’s 4-2 loss at Marlins Park, exiting with what he described as a “sharp, pinching pain.”
“I definitely know when I can go and when I need to shut it down,” Russell said. “There’s a difference between whenever you’re trying to work through something or you’re working against something.
“I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with my shoulder. But I definitely want to make sure, so I have that (peace of) mind.”
Russell couldn’t handle the spin on an Ichiro Suzuki chopper in the first inning, and that costly error helped Miami generate three unearned runs. Known more for his steady play and athleticism, Russell doesn’t really have that classic shortstop arm.
By the fourth inning, the Cubs rearranged their defense, with Javier Baez moving from second base to shortstop. This 38-37 team already has a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist), Gold Glove outfielder (Jason Heyward) and Cy Young Award finalist (Kyle Hendricks) on the disabled list.
“Nobody seems to think it’s awful,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Right now, I’m not hearing bad, so I just need to be educated more on it, because I’m hearing with maintenance, with exercise, all that kind of stuff, he should be able to play.
“But of course, I do not want to play anybody that’s injured. I don’t want to be responsible for hurting a young man like this, so I need to get more intel regarding what we need to do next.”
This lingering shoulder issue sidelined Russell in the middle of May – without a detour to the disabled list – and he eventually fell into a timeshare with Baez as he tried to get out of an offensive spiral while dealing with off-the-field issues.
Through her divorce attorney last week, Russell’s wife disclosed that she will not meet with Major League Baseball officials looking into an abuse allegation made by a third party on social media, a development that would significantly hinder the investigation.
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Russell – who denied the accusation – wants to keep the focus on the field. He has actually seen an offensive turnaround since details from his private life became public, hitting .357 with four homers and 10 RBI in his previous 12 games.
“It’s just a long season,” Russell said. “I know my body’s strong enough. I know that I can get through the full season. This year, it’s brought on new things that you have to get over, new things you have to learn, and injuries are definitely one of those things where I feel like I can help prevent, as far as treatment.
“As far as the shoulder thing, I think I need to be more self-aware and take responsibility.”
Russell is only 23 years old and time will tell if this really is a day-to-day issue that can be managed or a long-term concern with a franchise shortstop.
“But it’s never been debilitating,” Maddon said. “It’s just something that requires a little bit of rest and then he’s fine again. It’s just a young arm. Almost like a young pitcher, as he develops more arm strength and gets into probably a more consistent routine in between playing (with) exercises to prevent that kind of a nagging thing.
“As of right now, it’s nothing debilitating. It’s just nagging.”