SEATTLE – James Russell didn’t get a chance to watch the Blackhawks parade live, but Corey Crawford’s speech went viral and echoed more than 2,000 miles away from Grant Park.
“I heard he dropped a couple F-bombs,” Russell said, laughing on Friday afternoon inside Safeco Field’s visiting clubhouse.
Russell did not have a good night against the Seattle Mariners, blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning of a game the Cubs would eventually lose 5-4 in the 10th. This one followed the pattern, another tough-luck no-decision for Travis Wood (two runs in 6.1 innings) and another bullpen meltdown (15 blown saves) while the contenders are circling.
But the free-spirit reliever with the long hair and the playoff beard will be drawing interest as the Cubs (33-45) go into sell mode leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Still, the lefty thinks about winning in Chicago, where the Blackhawks have become the hot story and the model franchise.
Russell’s younger brother stole his “Don’t Toews Me Bro” T-shirt, so he needs a replacement, and you can imagine Blackhawks gear will be flying off the shelves this summer.
“That would be the coolest thing ever,” Russell said. “More power to ‘em. I can care less if they were half-drunk doing interviews. They got the right to be that way. They kind of put their bodies through hell in the playoffs. (Andrew) Shaw’s wearing pucks in the face. You got the right to do drunk interviews after that just to dull the pain.”
Russell has guts, attitude and a sense of humor, which is why he will bounce back tomorrow. Looking past Friday’s blown save – his fifth this season – he hasn’t allowed a run in 31 of 38 outings, putting up 27 strikeouts against nine walks.
Russell (2.61 ERA) is 27 years old and making $1.075 million this season. He’s arbitration-eligible for two more years, meaning he could fit into the long-range plan.
For the Cubs, it was impossible to miss the crowd spilling onto Clark Street and celebrating Monday night’s Stanley Cup clincher steps away from the Wrigley Field marquee. The nonstop party continued with Friday’s parade downtown.
“If they’re getting two million people, who knows what we could bring?” Russell said. “Especially it being the first one in 100-some-odd years. It lights your fire a little bit. You want that for the city of Chicago and you want it for the Cubs and the Ricketts family. Most of all, you want it for yourself. Nobody in this room (wants to miss being) on that team that wins it.
“You’d be a walking legend.”
Russell pitched for Lou Piniella as a rookie in 2010, when the Cubs saw the window of contention closing fast after back-to-back division titles, and he’d like to be around when it opens back up again.
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“I’ve been through two GMs and however many managers and pitching coaches,” Russell said. “This is the first time I’ve actually had the same staff two years in a row and it’s kind of nice. If I do get traded, I hope they get something really good for me.”
Russell laughed at that last line, but he has seen his name popping up in trade rumors. Even if he doesn’t pay too much attention to the noise, it’s impossible to ignore at this time of year.
“If that happens, then so be it,” Russell said. “It’s just part of the business. But I like it in Chicago. I like what we’re doing here. I like the staff and everybody here. I’m happy here. I’d like to stay and be one of the building blocks of this organization.”