Cubs' Russell tapping into home run power

May 14th, 2016

CHICAGO -- When Joe Maddon is near Addison Russell whenever he's hitting, the Cubs' manager can hear the power.

"When you have the chance to stand by the cage and watch him hit, the sound of the ball and how far it goes indicates a lot of power," Maddon said. "You shake his hand and he has huge hands, and they're very strong. ... You can absolutely project power with him."

On Saturday, Russell hit his second home run in as many games to help the Cubs beat the Pirates, 8-2. It's the first time the 22-year-old shortstop has homered in consecutive games in his career. Russell knows he has power.

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"I felt I was a home run hitter," Russell said. "It's just tapping into that home run power, and it's just being a little more confident and barreling the ball and not being shy swinging the bat."

Russell is soft spoken. He has his own pregame routine, and admits he's kind of a loner.

"I go about my business the same way," he said, including some speed work, sessions with hitting coach John Mallee and time in the whirlpool as things on his to-do list.

Russell is well aware of his age. His walk-up music is Salt-N-Pepa's "Shoop," which he heard recently and liked. The song was released in 1993, before he was born.

He shows a lot of maturity at the plate. Russell leads the Cubs in batting with runners in scoring position, and is second on the Cubs in RBIs with 27. That also ranks second to the Rockies' Trevor Story among National League shortstops.

During his rookie season last year, Russell was asked to play second base and also change his mechanics at the plate and add a leg kick. Maddon likes to say that was Russell's sophomore slump, and the shortstop now is a junior.

"It was just kind of a battle to get back to being the type of hitter I know I can be," Russell said. "I was trying to get that accomplished at the big league level, along with the switches of being at second and adding the leg kick. My first year was a pretty adverse year, and now we're just letting it flow."