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Russell nearly has 'full confidence' after injury

Shortstop recovering from strained left hamstring; Cubs ready for warmer weather

CHICAGO -- Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, sidelined with a strained left hamstring, has not started hitting yet, but he is making progress and has reluctantly accepted his role as cheerleader.

Russell injured his leg when he tripled in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. He was not included on Chicago's roster for the NL Championship Series, and Javier Baez started the first two games at shortstop.

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"We're still trying to take it easy, even though it feels great," Russell said Monday. "I think I have almost my full confidence back in it. Right now, we're in the strengthening stage. We're getting there day by day, and each day is significant growth. It's coming along good."

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What has helped Russell is not trying to rush back in time for the NLCS.

"We're going to take it slow," Russell said. "We have a plan in place. We still want to be [cautious]. We want to make sure everything is 100 [percent]."

Russell, who was 3-for-12 in four postseason games, said it's been tough to be a spectator.

"It's definitely frustrating," Russell said. "You grind all year with these guys and when it comes crunch time, you have to sit on the bench. I'll cheer on my teammates. I'm happy I've been a part to help the team get this far. I know the type of players we put on the field every day. They'll do their best to get the job done."

• It was 70 degrees at Wrigley Field when the Cubs held a brief workout, with some players taking part in bunting drills, including Starlin Castro, Kris Bryant, Jason Hammel, Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler and Baez. Before the session, the players met in center field with strength coach Tim Buss in what manager Joe Maddon called a "kumbaya moment."

"I'd like to believe with the warmer weather, our guys are going to have a little better feel at the plate," Maddon said Monday.

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If the Cubs are feeling pressure about being down, 2-0, in the NLCS, they're not showing it.

"We had a lot of walk-off wins here," Bryant said. "Being down in certain games has built us up to this point. It really isn't that much different to us. It is a different setting, it is the playoffs, it is October. Sure it's different, but we've been in a similar position before."

Chicago, which totaled 13 walk-off wins and won 23 games in its last at-bat this year, did find itself behind in Games 1, 2 and 4 in the NLDS against the Cardinals.

"You realize that if there's no panic in the manager, there's no panic in the players," catcher David Ross said.

Maddon, who has been battling a head cold, was feeling better Monday.

"I got some 'severe' day or whatever," Maddon said of the medication he was taking. "I kind of like the word 'severe' on it, so I thought it was made for me."

• There was a bouquet of flowers in Cubs closer Hector Rondon's locker as a present for his wife, Keilin. Monday marked their five-year wedding anniversary.

• How popular is the Cubs-Mets series? TBS said the broadcast of Game 2 of the NLCS was the most-viewed LCS coverage through the second game of the best-of-seven series. The series is averaging 7.2 million total viewers and a 4.1 U.S. household rating. Sunday's NLCS Game 2 averaged 6.6 million total viewers and a 3.8 U.S. HH rating to generate the network's most-watched and highest-rated LCS Game 2 ever.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.
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