Cubs SS Russell joining Triple-A Iowa to prepare for return
Russell is expected to play when Iowa begins a nine-game homestand Wednesday night against Nashville. He had stayed in Arizona to work out after the Cubs broke camp for the start of the season.
Manager Joe Maddon said John Baker, who works in Chicago’s front office, recently watched Russell play.
“He said he’s hitting the ball extremely well,” Maddon said before Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I know he’s eager and anxious to get out there. So one thing at a time, just get him playing, see how that’s going and then after that we’ll make our call.”
Russell was suspended last fall after a series of allegations made by his ex-wife. While declining to get into any specifics, Russell said in February he was accountable for his past actions and apologized for “the hurt and the pain” he caused.
Barring any postponements, Russell would be eligible to return to Chicago for its series opener against St. Louis on May 3 at Wrigley Field.
The 25-year-old Russell was once considered one of baseball’s top young shortstops. He was selected by Oakland in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft and traded to Chicago in the July 2014 deal that moved pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics.
Russell helped the Cubs win the World Series three years ago, batting .238 with 21 homers and 95 RBIs in 151 games.
The team faced criticism for retaining Russell after his suspension, and it is unclear what kind of reception he might receive when he comes back.
“I’m certain that we will discuss those kind of things with him prior to getting here, but for right now it’s been pretty much baseball-related conversations,” Maddon said.
Maddon also said Tuesday that ace left-hander Jon Lester is “trending in the right direction” when it comes to pitching Thursday against Los Angeles. Lester, who worked out before the series opener against the Dodgers, is on the injured list with a left hamstring strain.