CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes a lot of what he is seeing from Addison Russell. But when it comes to the difficulty Russell has experienced at the plate so far in May, Maddon acknowledges something has been just a little off.Something definitely clicked with the young shortstop on
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes a lot of what he is seeing from Addison Russell. But when it comes to the difficulty Russell has experienced at the plate so far in May, Maddon acknowledges something has been just a little off.
Something definitely clicked with the young shortstop on Wednesday.
Russell entered Wednesday's finale against the Marlins hitting just .208 (5-for-24) this month with nine strikeouts and a walk. But in his first two at-bats against Wei-Yin Chen, Russell doubled and homered -- all in the third inning -- on a day when the hits kept coming for the Cubs in their 13-4, series-sweeping win at Wrigley Field.
Russell led off the Cubs' eight-run frame with a double, which he laced into the gap before he scored on a Kristopher Bryant double. When his spot in the lineup came up again later in the inning, Russell lifted a two-run homer -- the Cubs' third big fly of the day and his first of the season -- that provided starter Jose Quintana with a 9-0 lead. He finished the day 3-for-3.
"I've been feeling good for the last couple of weeks," Russell said. "I think [Maddon] has a lot of confidence in me to send me out every single day. I'm trying to contribute to the team, and that makes me really happy."
Before Wednesday's abrupt turnaround, Maddon was determined to allow Russell to work through his inconsistencies. Afterward, Maddon said he liked the approach Russell showed at the plate.
"He's good and kept progressively having better at-bats, I thought," Maddon said. "He found some grass today, he put a ball in the stands, he made some really nice plays on defense. He just had a nice day. Addy had a nice day. You see what he's capable of doing, and that's why patience is a really big word in our game."
Maddon has seen improvement in Russell's baserunning, and he is pleased with Russell's overall defensive effort, with the exception of a few throws that have been uncharacteristically off-target.
While Maddon -- who stresses the importance of hitting to all fields -- has seen Russell hit well to the right side of the infield, he wants to see more consistency in hitting to the left as well as Russell attempts to find a groove at the plate.
Maddon is convinced it will happen sooner rather than later.
"It's just piling up on him, offensively, and of course, he's frustrated -- absolutely, he's frustrated," Maddon said before the game. "But you see what he's done in the past, and he'll do it again. It's my job, it's our job to bring him back up."
The Cubs selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Justin Hancock from Triple-A Iowa and recalled right fielder Mark Zagunis on Wednesday. To make room, they optioned lefty Rob Zastryzny and righty Jen-Ho Tseng to Triple-A. The Major League roster now stands at 40.
Maddon wasted no time in getting both newcomers into game action.
Hancock pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief of Quintana, and he struck out the first batter he faced. But he also surrendered his first big league home run when Miguel Rojas delivered a two-run shot in the seventh inning. Hancock then struck out Martin Prado to end the inning.
Hancock, 27, went 2-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 relief outings with Iowa this year, including 5 2/3 scoreless frames over his past four outings. He has struck out 19 batters in 14 1/3 innings pitched, an average of 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, while limiting foes to a .250 batting average, including a .206 mark by right-handed hitters.
Hancock, who was obtained from the Padres in a trade for outfielder Matthew Szczur, was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year.
"You just have to stay ready," Hancock said before the game. "It's been a long road to get to this point, and I think all of the hard work is actually starting to pay off."
Zagunis, 25, joins the Cubs for the first time in 2018 after batting .298 with four doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs in 29 games with Iowa this season. He has a .412 on-base percentage and a .436 slugging percentage this year, good for an .848 OPS, recording nearly as many walks (17) as strikeouts (18). He made his 2018 debut with the Cubs on Wednesday and recorded his first big league hit.
Like Hancock, Zagunis said the key to being ready for a callup is focusing on the day to day.
"You can't really focus on anything but controlling what you can control, and that's working on whatever you need to work on," Zagunis said.
Cubs celebrating Mother's Day with honorary bat girl
Kristin Root will be honored on Sunday prior to the Cubs' game against the White Sox as an honorary bat girl, part of Major League Baseball's "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative.
Root, who is a nurse and the director of the health department for the Village of Rosemont, Ill., was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks before her 36th birthday. She was diagnosed with Stage Zero DCIS and opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Last August, she finished four rounds of chemotherapy.
On Sunday, the Cubs players will wear pink caps, pink ribbons on their jerseys and pink socks, and some will use pink bats and batting gloves as part of Major League Baseball's efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer. There will be plenty of pink at Wrigley Field, as the first 5,000 bleacher fans will receive pink T-shirts presented by Advocate Health Care.
Louisville Slugger will donate proceeds from the sale of their pink bats, which will be stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo, to Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer. Additionally, MLB will again donate its licensed uniform royalties through Mother's Day apparel to Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer.
Julianna Zobrist, Benjamin Zobrist's wife, will sing "God Bless America" prior to the game.
Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.