(CBS) Following the call-up of prized infielder prospect Addison Russell, Cubs manager Joe Maddon made clear that Starlin Castro is the team’s starting shortstop this season and Russell is here to play second base.
“Starlin’s the shortstop, man,” Maddon said in an interview on the Spiegel and Goff Show on Tuesday. “Again, watch him play. He’s been outstanding. Addison’s up here to play second.”
Castro is hitting .327 with one homer, six RBIs and a .761 OPS this season. Maddon also lauded him for a commitment to defense and baserunning, and the Cubs are committed to him at the shortstop — even if they realize Russell’s long-term future lies there as well.
“He’s still a future major league shortstop, there’s no question about that,” Maddon said of Russell. “Right now, our shortstop is playing as good as any shortstop in the National League as far as I can tell and maybe in all of baseball. So right now, keep pushing him in the right direction and see how far it takes us.”
The discussion over Russell playing second base began back in spring training, Maddon said, adding he’s “really into cross-pollination.”
Castro recently told the Chicago Tribune, “I have the talent to be a good shortstop — I don’t want to be a joke anymore.” So it’s clear he wants to remain at shortstop.
“That takes a lot of cajones to say something like that in the first place,” Maddon said. “I really appreciate that.
“I just like that he looks so focused and is going in the right direction right now. That’s outstanding.”
Russell will fill a void for the Cubs at second base, as they’ve used a platoon of players there so far. Jonathan Herrera is batting just .192, while Arismendy Alcantara has struggled even more in hitting .077.
Tabbed the No. 2 prospect in in the minors by Baseball America recently, Russell had hit .297 with one homer and seven RBIs in his first nine games at Triple-A this season, along with a .740 OPS.
Russell was originally the 11th overall pick by Oakland in the 2012 amateur draft. The Cubs acquired him as part of a July 4 trade last summer that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics.
Maddon indicated Russell will likely bat ninth in the Cubs’ order, with the pitcher continuing to hit eighth. Maddon likes having two high-OBP players precede power hitters like Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant coming to the plate in the two-three-four spots.
Maddon also thinks Russell will see better pitches hitting ninth as opposed to seventh.
“I just like the idea of a really good hitter, not just anybody (batting ninth),” Maddon said.
“Right now, I like Addison in the nine hole.”
The Cubs are on the road to face the Pirates tonight. Russell is expected to be available for Chicago.
You can listen to Maddon’s full interview below or click here to listen to it in a new tab. Maddon also talks about Anthony Rizzo as the Cubs’ leader and his musical choices.