Maddon encouraged after seeing Cubs SS Russell rebound late
MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Addison Russell was a rising All-Star on a World Series championship team going into last spring.
His trajectory soon took a different path.
The Chicago Cubs shortstop faced domestic abuse claims, which he denied, that led to wife Melisa filing for divorce.
On the field, injuries to his foot and throwing shoulder limited him to 110 games. He wound up batting just .239 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs, hardly what was expected of him.
“I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent than I displayed,” Russell said. “Going into this year, I’m keeping a good mental (approach), staying level-headed and then also staying healthy and producing when I’m on the field.”
“You can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “You have to live in the moment. It was a tough season last year. We were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover.”
Manager Joe Maddon said he feels the 24-year-old Russell is in a good place after seeing him rebound toward the end of the regular season. Maddon plans to monitor his health in the spring, especially when it comes to his shoulder.
“I really think this is kind of like his year to really blossom,” Maddon said. “He’s so athletic. He’s so gifted. As a shortstop, he’s so fundamentally sound.”
“Arm health would be the most important thing. If he can throw consistently, the rest of his game is going to be better because he’s not going to have to worry about it.”
Russell hit just .238 in 2016, but had 95 RBIs and 21 homers. Last season, dipped to a .304 on-base percentage.
Russell will be reunited this year with new hitting coach Chili Davis, who was also with the A’s when Russell was drafted in 2012.
“He was my first hitting coach and he said, One day Addy, you are going to switch to a leg kick,’” Russell said. “Baseball is a magical sport. We’ve had one day in the cage already and I can tell it is going to be a great season by the way he communicates with me. I’m not the easiest to communicate with but with how the way he breaks things down I can really understand him.”
“I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I stay healthy for a full season. If I stay on the field, I’m going to produce,” he said.