Cubs workhorse James Russell insists that he’s not worn down
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 24, 2013 10:24PM
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:59AM
SAN DIEGO — Could James Russell’s heavy workload the last two years have something to do with the Cub reliever’s recent struggles?
Russell and Cub manager Dale Sveum say no.
But Russell leads the majors with 142 appearances over the last two seasons, including 65 this year, leading to some outside speculation of fatigue as a factor.
Cubs pitcher Shawn Camp, after all, led the majors with 80 appearances last year and clearly wasn’t the same pitcher this year, struggling early and eventually being released.
“I don’t see that, not the way the last few have gone,” Sveum said of a possible link between Russell’s workload and recent issues.
When he gave up a go-ahead home run to the San Diego Padres’ Wil Venable in the seventh inning of Friday’s 8-6 loss, it was the third homer he’s allowed in his last four outings — a 22/3-inning stretch that included five hits and a walk overall.
Sveum and Russell both point to execution and, in the case of Friday’s slider to Venable, pitch selection, said Sveum.
“It’s just part of the game. It’s not fatigue or getting worn out,” Russell said. “I’d rather them wear me out than just sit down there and throw every three days. It’s just execution.
The other side of workload numbers for the only left-hander the Cubs have continuously had in their bullpen the last two years is that despite the high number of appearances, his 116 innings don’t even put him among the top 40 relievers in the majors the last two years — more than 30 off the lead.
“My body feels great. I feel awesome,” said Russell, whose velocity is essentially unchanged from last year to this year, according to FanGraphs.
“It’s what I pride myself on,” he said of the appearances, “being a guy that’s ready to take the ball every day. I learned it from my dad. He always said always show up and take the ball when they need you do it.”
Russell’s dad, Jeff, was an All-Star as both a starter and reliever.
“I like being out there,” James said. “The only way you can work out of something is being out on the mound and throwing your way out of it.”
Catcher Welington Castillo is expected to return to the lineup Sunday for the series finale against the Padres after missing the last three games because of sore ribs.
◆ The Cubs haven’t announced their eight-man list of players they plan to send to the Arizona Fall League in October, but Class A outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora are expected to be in the group that will include many of the Cubs’ highest-profile prospects.
◆ Right-hander Scott Baker, who pitched four innings for Class A Kane County in a rehab start Friday, has not progressed quickly enough that the team has a firm schedule for his Cubs debut, whether in the rotation or out of the bullpen. But the team still expects to add him to the active roster in September.