By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — With steady work on the field and the care of orthotics everywhere else, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is pain-free in his right foot and close to returning.
The Cubs will make a determination to Russell’s status Saturday morning as he goes through a workout at Wrigley Field. Team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein wouldn’t make any guarantees before that important test, as the Cubs are being cautious to ensure no setbacks with the plantar fasciitis that has hampered him since early August.
As for Russell, the hope is to be back on the field for the weekend series against the Cardinals that starts Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
“I’m ready to get out there,” Russell said before Friday’s game. “I see these guys go to work every single day, they’re having fun, they’re up in the dugout. I want to be more a part of that.”
A return Monday for the two-game set in Tampa Bay is more likely as the Cubs work cautiously with the 23-year-old Russell, who last played on Aug. 2 and suffered a setback before a rehab outing at Triple-A Iowa back on Aug. 30.
Now that Russell is free of pain in his foot, he’s working steadily to improve his rhythm and timing at the plate. The plan will be to ease Russell back into his return, manager Joe Maddon said, similar to how the Cubs are handling catcher Willson Contreras.
“He’s really excited and feels good about himself,” Maddon said of Russell. “He’s pain-free. So it’s just a matter of getting everything back in order game-wise, which is difficult right now. But he is feeling pretty darn good.”
Russell is hitting .241 on the season with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs. Javier Baez has filled his role at shortstop.
Epstein made it clear that Russell will be on a potential playoff roster if he’s healthy and available, and the team hasn’t seriously considered Baez as the everyday shortstop.
Now, it’s just a matter of getting Russell back to action.
“That my confidence will build with the more at-bats I’ll get,” Russell said. “It’s just all about seeing as many pitches as I can, hopefully before I get into a game, and then really just take everything in that first game and build off that.”
In other injury news, right-hander Jake Arrieta will throw a side session Saturday and be placed into the rotation sometime next week if all goes well. Reliever Hector Rondon has a sore elbow and is unavailable for now. An MRI showed no structural damage for Rondon.