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Reliever James Russell refuses to blame injury for blown save

Chicago Cubs relief pitcher James Russell throws during eighth inning baseball game against Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday June 26 2013 Milwaukee.

Chicago Cubs relief pitcher James Russell throws during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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OAKLAND – James Russell doesn’t like to talk about it, and refuses to use it as an excuse. But the recent struggles of a guy who could be the key to the Cubs’ bullpen stability over the final two months began about the time he hurt his left ankle away from the field two weeks ago.

“It’s nothing big. It was definitely nothing that was going to keep me off the field,” said Russell, who described the cause as “something stupid, just running around.

“I didn’t twist it or anything. It was just maybe like tendonitis or something. But it’s gone now, no problems.”

If anything, the discomfort that lasted only a few days might have led to “out of whack” mechanics” he’s been fighting to correct since.

In his last eight outings, dating to June 14, he’s given up seven earned runs on 15 hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings (9.45 ERA). He had allowed 15 hits total in 32 previous outings with a 1.40 ERA.

“His changeup’s either short or hung, and he can’t spot a fastball down and away,” manager Dale Sveum said after Russell gave up Derek Norris’ game-winning homer in the eighth. “Basically, just no location.”

Russell, who could be the Cubs’ top reliever in a weak-link pen when closer Kevin Gregg is traded this month, just sees it as a mechanics issue he has to fight through – especially now that the ankle’s back to normal.

“I’m not blaming it on my ankle by any means,” he said. “Throughout the year, whether it’s your body getting tired or you just fall off mechanically, period, it happens.

“It’s one of those things you have to work through. It sucks having to do that. But when you figure it out, that’s when you get on a nice little run again.”

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