MESA, Ariz. -- Addison Russell spoke methodically, navigating his way through a series of questions several months in the making. When the Cubs shortstop took his seat in an interview room on Friday morning, it was his first time talking publicly about his ongoing suspension for violating Major League Baseball's
MESA, Ariz. -- Addison Russell spoke methodically, navigating his way through a series of questions several months in the making. When the Cubs shortstop took his seat in an interview room on Friday morning, it was his first time talking publicly about his ongoing suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Domestic Abuse Policy since being placed on administrative leave in September.
Russell repeatedly said he took accountability, but did so without delving into the specifics regarding his past actions. What the shortstop did detail was his ongoing treatment, which involves weekly counseling beyond what MLB has mandated. He also offered an apology to anyone impacted by his behavior, especially his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy.
"I am accountable for my past actions," Russell said. "I'm not proud of the person I was, but I do want to own this issue and take responsibility for the hurt and the pain that I have caused Melisa. And, for that, I am sorry."
Russell is a full participant in Spring Training with the Cubs, meaning he can go through daily workouts and play in Cactus League games with the ballclub. Once Opening Day arrives, Russell will remain on MLB's restricted list and finish out the 40-game suspension handed out last season. The shortstop has 28 games left, making him eligible for return at the start of May.
As both manager Joe Maddon and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have emphasized, though, what Russell has been given is a "conditional" second chance. Epstein said both Russell and the team are in the "second inning" of this process, and there are no guarantees that the shortstop has a job waiting for him. Russell has to keep working his way through the treatment program and meeting the standards set before him by the Cubs.
"We've talked about the fact that there's so many ifs attached to him coming back right now," Maddon said on Friday. "If he continues to do what he's doing right now, obviously, everything's headed in the right direction. Within the group itself, a lot of it's going to depend on him."
Maddon said earlier this week that both he and Russell will address the team about this issue when the full squad is in camp. In the meantime, Russell has already been going through morning workouts with teammates and talking to them behind the scenes.
"My teammates have shown nothing but support for me and my family," Russell said. "I think through this whole process, the person that has been inflicted the most in this process is Melisa. And what I want to say to everyone here today, and also to her, is that I want to own those actions. And I am sorry for the hurt that I have caused Melisa and the pain that I put her through. And I am [making] my best efforts to become a better person."
Asked directly if he would no longer deny the accusations against him, Russell said: "I want to own my actions. I want to be accountable for the hurt that I put Melisa through and the pain that she went through. That's what I want to own."
Fully aware of the public scrutiny over the decision to retain Russell, the Cubs are also trying to address domestic violence not only with the shortstop and his ex-wife, but on a broader scale. Epstein noted this week that every employee in the organization has either completed or is going through a domestic violence awareness course. Staff members who are around players' families will take part in an even more extensive 40-hour program.
Epstein also said the Cubs are working with Family Rescue and the House of Good Shepherd to help further efforts to assist people impacted by domestic violence.
"Experts say you can never say domestic violence will never happen again here," Epstein said. "But you can still take every step necessary to ensure that this is the safest possible workplace and that we have the smallest possible chance of any domestic violence occurring within these walls."
Russell said he understands that he has disappointed a long list of people, and he knows that it will take time to repair the damage done both on the personal and professional fronts. He reiterated that baseball is secondary in all of this, as he works behind the scenes to better himself and his relationships.
"I understand that there's Cubs fans that don't understand this process that I'm going through," Russell said. "I'm sorry for letting the Cub fans down, along with the organization. What I want to say to them is, I am committed in my work to become a better person, and be a better person at the end of this."
Russell said that his relationship with Reidy is heading "in the right direction," and his therapy has contributed to an improved atmosphere with his family and children. He added that his family was appreciative of the fact that the Cubs did not simply cut ties with the shortstop.
Last year, when the allegations surfaced and the suspension followed, Russell said he hoped that the Cubs would give him a second chance.
"But I realize the severity of this issue," he said. "And I want to address this issue, and I want to be accountable for my past behaviors and tell everyone that I am committed."
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.