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Hoyer: Russell's 'return is not imminent'

Cubs have favorable schedule down stretch, but not overlooking teams; Zobrist scratched with stiff neck
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, who is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday, is not close to returning, general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday.

"He's coming along slowly," Hoyer said of Russell, who has been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a right foot strain. "As cliche as it is, we'll take it day by day. He's feeling better. A return is not imminent. Hopefully, he just keeps getting better and better and gets on the field."

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CHICAGO -- Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, who is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday, is not close to returning, general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday.

"He's coming along slowly," Hoyer said of Russell, who has been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a right foot strain. "As cliche as it is, we'll take it day by day. He's feeling better. A return is not imminent. Hopefully, he just keeps getting better and better and gets on the field."

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Russell, who was batting .241 when injured, will likely have to go on a Minor League rehab assignment.

• The Cubs began play Monday with a one-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central. This division may not be decided until the final week of games.

"Everyone's one hot streak away from being right there," Hoyer said. "We just have to hope that we start being consistent. You want to rattle off a lot of series wins and really get away from .500 by a significant amount, because until we do that there's obviously no way to pull away from the pack."

The Cubs do have an easier schedule ahead, facing teams either at or below .500. Hoyer doesn't want the Cubs to overlook anyone.

"I think we've all learned over time that if you play well, you can beat anyone," Hoyer said. "If you're playing badly, you can lose to anyone. We've had some pretty bad series losses this year against teams that you would have thought we would have handled. At some point, you stop doing that. You stop looking ahead in the schedule too much.

"Listen, we just have to play good baseball. Every team can give us a hard time if we're not playing at our best. Just because the schedule maybe looked weaker, ultimately it's on us to play our style of baseball and control that. If we do that, I think we'll do well. If we don't, we'll struggle."

Ben Zobrist was a late scratch on Monday because of a stiff neck. He was expected to be eligible during the game after receiving treatment. Tommy La Stella started at second base in Zobrist's place.

Video: CHC@ATL: La Stella connects on a solo homer to right

• Monday marked the start of American Legion week for the Cubs, which means players are not allowed into the clubhouse before 4 p.m. CT for a 7:05 p.m. game. If they are caught early, the fine is a $100 bottle of wine, and the players must show a receipt.

The Cubs also will treat American Legion Palatine Post 690 to beer and brats at some point. The week-long event is designed not just to honor veterans but also be a reminder for the players to enjoy the game. This week also gives the players some extra rest, which manager Joe Maddon feels is necessary to deal with the dog days of August.

Hector Rondon was able to take advantage of the late start time and get his hair cut. Carl Edwards Jr. slept in, and then played more video games before walking to Wrigley Field. The late start wasn't a change for Anthony Rizzo, who works out in the morning, then takes a nap before reporting to the ballpark.

Maddon arrived at 4 p.m. on Monday.

"That's three hours before a game," he said. "That's plenty of time. Why do you have to be here at 3, 2 or 1 [p.m.]? That doesn't make any sense."

Kris Bryant reached base in 13 of 15 plate appearances in the Cubs' three-game series against the D-backs, which is an .867 on-base percentage. That's tied for the second-highest mark in franchise history for a three-game series, topped only by Mark DeRosa's .917 OBP, Sept. 17-19, 2007, vs. the Reds.

Video: Must C Curious: Bryant races home on wild pitch

"He looks more like 'K.B.,'" Maddon said. "He's getting his feel back with the angle of his bat. My history with him is that when he gets it, it stays there."

• The Cubs had a moment of silence to honor former manager Don Baylor, who passed away this month. They also hung a No. 25 Cubs jersey with his name on it in the dugout. Baylor managed the Cubs from 2000-02.

• The Cubs are expected to have a better idea regarding September callups by the end of this week-long homestand. They will most likely add another catcher from the Triple-A Iowa team and some pitchers.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist