Next wave: Top prospect Russell joins Cubs
PITTSBURGH -- First it was Kris Bryant. Now Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect, is joining the big league team.
Russell, called up before Chicago's Tuesday night game in Pittsburgh, will play second base and hit ninth against the Pirates in his big league debut. The 21-year-old moved from shortstop to second base at Triple-A Iowa, which put the infielder on the fast track to the big leagues.
Entering Tuesday's action, Cubs second basemen had hit a combined .146 (6-for-41), which was near the bottom of the National League. Russell was batting .318 at Iowa.
"We're just trying to give him that opportunity to play there," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Monday's game about Russell's move from shortstop to second. "Personally, I like guys like that playing a bunch of different spots in the Minor Leagues if you can. You never know where the need will be on the Major League level.
"It's just being more proactive as far as prepping him for a need that may be open here," Maddon said. "You could surmise that there's potential that he might do that, but it's not a lock. It's just a matter of expanding his infield horizons."
The Cubs optioned infielder/outfielder Arismendy Alcantara to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Russell, who was acquired last July from the Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija deal.
Bryant, the Cubs' top prospect, was promoted on Friday to the big league team, and he recorded a three-hit, three-RBI game on Monday in a 5-2 win over the Pirates.
The biggest concern for any infielder making the move is to learn how to handle double plays and get a feel for what Maddon calls the "road map, the GPS." Infielders need to know where to be on every play, and switching sides in the infield can make a difference.
Javier Baez, who was projected as the Cubs' starting second baseman, has yet to play for Iowa. He was on bereavement leave to deal with the passing of his 21-year-old sister, Noely.