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Zobrist (neck) nears return to Cubs' lineup

Russell remains sidelined with stiff back
March 27, 2017

MESA, Ariz. -- Benjamin Zobrist told manager Joe Maddon that he hopes to play Tuesday in the Cubs' penultimate game in Arizona. However, there's no update on when shortstop Addison Russell will return to action.Zobrist has not played in one week because of a stiff neck, while Russell has been

MESA, Ariz. -- Benjamin Zobrist told manager Joe Maddon that he hopes to play Tuesday in the Cubs' penultimate game in Arizona. However, there's no update on when shortstop Addison Russell will return to action.
Zobrist has not played in one week because of a stiff neck, while Russell has been sidelined with a stiff back. Russell did play catch on Monday, Maddon said.
"We're just being overly cautious with all that," Maddon said. "Zobrist was talking about [Tuesday]. We'll see. I've talked to Addy a little bit. We haven't set a date for Addy to play. I don't want to push him at all with Opening Day coming over the weekend. We'll keep him nice and slow."
The Cubs open the regular season on Sunday night at 7:35 p.m. CT against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
• Albert Almora Jr. hit two home runs and a double on Sunday in Las Vegas, and Maddon liked what he saw.
"The swings are really good," Maddon said. "Those are the things he and [hitting coaches John Mallee and Eric Hinske] have been working on. All three swings looked very similar, the way [Almora] finished, the balance, the ball in the air. That was my take on him last year watching him take batting practice. This kid has power and it's going to keep getting better and better."

Maddon wasn't ready to reveal his starting lineup for Opening Night, and Almora could get the start in center against right-hander Carlos Martinez.
"There's certain guys Albert matches up against," Maddon said.
Maddon also likes what he's seen of Jason Heyward, who is batting .152 this spring.
"I think the swings have been really good lately," Maddon said. "I see them making constant progress."
Heyward spent the offseason in Arizona working with Mallee and Hinske on his swing.
"I think he's at the point where he really likes what he's doing," Maddon said of Heyward, who batted .230 last year with the Cubs. "I like what he's doing and really anticipate a good year."

• The numbers may not be pretty but Cubs closer Wade Davis isn't concerned. He's given up eight runs on nine hits and five walks over 3 2/3 innings this spring.
"Everything's been pretty good strength-wise and the stuff has been good when I've executed it, and that's what I'm looking for now," Davis said. "I think the mentality will get better in the next couple days for sure, just locking it in and turn the switch on. That probably hasn't been there."
Kyle Schwarber started his fourth straight game on Monday, although Sunday's game in Las Vegas lasted one at-bat and he was pulled. The good news is that his left knee has passed all the tests. Schwarber tore two ligaments in the knee in the third game of the regular season last year, but has been good to go this spring.
"My knee is a non-factor," he said on Monday. "I get rest days in so I'm not overworking it before the season starts. I felt we did a really good job in spring making sure I got work in and now I'm going into the season where it can be every day or get a day off, or whatever Joe comes up with. I feel confident with my knee."
What kind of reception does Schwarber expect this Sunday night in St. Louis when the Cubs open against the Cardinals?
"I think we'll get a standing ovation," he said, laughing.
That's not likely.

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.