The Cubs got creative to get Kyle Schwarber back in the lineup for his legendary World Series last fall, sending him to Arizona and getting him a handful of live at-bats before bringing him onto baseball’s biggest stage.
A similar level of creativity may be necessary to get Addison Russell back if he’s going to be a factor in October, so long as the Cubs can hold off the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. With no minor league games available in which Russell could get rehab at-bats toward the end of September, the Cubs will have to find a way for the 23-year-old shortstop to see some live pitching before the end of the month — or, at least, before the playoffs begin.
“It’s the actual seeing pitches, timing, reaction stuff that will be different,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There’s ways to get it done but it’s not the same as in actual games. But you get as close as you can.”
Russell, who’s slashing .241/.305/.417 with 10 home runsin 97 games, landed on the disabled list in early August with plantar fasciitis, and re-aggravated that injury during a rehab assignment in early September. He has about two weeks left in his prescribed three-week recovery process, and Saturday was his third day running. He hasn’t put cleats on yet but expects that to happen soon, though that he hasn’t is a reminder of how far off he is from re-joining the active roster.
Russell isn’t trying to rush back into the lineup before he’s ready, though, especially if it’s in late September and the Cubs are making a final push for the playoffs (Javier Baez could help mitigate his absence, though). But that’s a discussion that won’t happen until Russell gets some at-bats, whether it’s in the instructional league in Arizona or against some minor leaguers in a simulated game at Wrigley Field or whenever the Cubs are playing.
“The big thing is, I want to be confident whenever I go out there on the field,” Russell said. “Being 100 percent would be ideal. I don’t see me going out on the field and not being 100 percent at this point.
“The last week of games are pretty crucial. It’s a pretty tough division. Just need to make sure I’m 100 percent and we’ll just go from there. I think the baseball and stuff is going to play out, even though I am in rehab, because this is only getting better, making sure my muscles are ready for in-game play, making sure my mind’s ready for in-game play, and just mentally being ready as well.”