Epstein details rigorous expectations for Russell

February 13th, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- went through a normal morning workout at the Cubs' spring complex on Tuesday, but there is nothing routine about the shortstop's current situation. Once the regular season arrives, Russell will have a series of important steps to complete before being permitted to take the field again.

Russell is currently on the restricted list and will be ineligible to return to the Cubs until May -- after his suspension for violating MLB's Domestic Violence Policy is fulfilled. In the meantime, Russell can be a full participant in Spring Training workouts and Cactus League games, while continuing to work with the team and MLB on a treatment program for his off-field behavior.

During a wide-ranging press conference on Tuesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein addressed Russell's situation.

"Personally, I think we're doing the right thing," Epstein said. "I understand people who are upset and think we should've just moved on. But I can at least pledge to those people that we're taking this on earnestly, that it's important to us, that they're not just words; they're actions. And I will continue to be transparent with you and with our fans about everything that we're doing to try to attack this problem of domestic violence and we will continue to hold Addison to an incredibly high standard or he won't play a regular-season game as a Chicago Cub ever again."

While discussing the matter, Epstein provided more details about the steps the Cubs are taking:

• Beyond complying with MLB's program, Russell continues to meet with a therapist multiple times per week. The shortstop will also sit down with reporters within the next week to answer questions. Epstein said that Cubs have also maintained contact with Russell's ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, throughout this process.

• The Cubs have instituted "enhanced domestic violence training" for all of their employees throughout both the Major and Minor Leagues. More than 130 employees have already completed the training and the rest will complete it by the end of Spring Training.

• All employees who work with players' families or travel with the team will go through an extended 40-hour training program aimed at improving domestic-violence detection, awareness, prevention and education. Players' families will also have an "elective healthy relationship" program available to them.

• The Cubs have worked with the Family Rescue organization on forming the training programs, and they continue to team with the group for other initiatives. Epstein said the team is also working with the House of Good Shephard, a Chicago-based group that assists victims of domestic violence.

"Experts say you can never say domestic violence will never happen again here," Epstein said. "But you can still take every step necessary to ensure that this is the safest possible workplace and that we have the smallest possible chance of any domestic violence occurring within these walls."

No big-ticket surprises

Working with limited room in their budget, the Cubs were not major players on the free-agent market this offseason. Chicago is still in contact with free-agent relievers, and Epstein said the team might still "squeeze one more" into the bullpen competition. What will not be happening, however, is the Cubs suddenly becoming a surprise player in the ongoing sweepstakes.

"I think we've been really clear this winter about sort of the landscape we're operating in," Epstein said, "and the different areas that we can improve the team and the different resources available to us. And how we'd have to be sort of creative and value-based and try to attack all areas that we could in an artful way, and that this probably wasn't going to be a winter where we threw money at problems. I'm not going to talk about any specific free agent or class of free agents, but I think you can sort of extrapolate the approach we've taken so far this winter as probably going forward what's most realistic for us."

Darvish unrestricted

Right-hander Yu Darvish (returning from right elbow surgery in September) threw off a mound at the Cubs' complex on Sunday and went through a workout during Tuesday's informal morning practice. Manager Joe Maddon expressed excitement over Darvish's physical condition in comparison to this time last spring.

"He's looking really good right now," Maddon said. "He looks physically outstanding and conversationally he's in a really good place. It's just wonderful to have him well, just to get him out there and continue to fully support him. I'm eager to watch him play, man. He looks that good. His bullpens have been that good also."

Alzolay behind schedule

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer revealed Tuesday that top pitching prospect (ranked No. 2 among MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Cubs Prospects) will begin camp roughly two weeks behind the rest of the pitchers. Hoyer said that the 23-year-old Alzolay, who was limited to eight starts last year due to a right lat injury, tweaked his side during a mound session last week.

"We're going to slow him down," Hoyer said of the right-hander. "[We're using] an abundance of caution after last season."

Epstein addresses Ricketts situation

Epstein also took time on Tuesday to condemn the language used by Joe Ricketts (founder of TD Ameritrade and the father of Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts) in a series of emails released last week. Tom Ricketts already issued a public rebuke of the contents of the e-mails and is slated to meet with Cubs media within the next week to speak on the matter, as well as other issues surrounding the ballclub.

"I'd just like to take a moment to join Tom in stating unequivocally that the views expressed in those e-mails have no place in our organization, in the sport of baseball or in society overall," Epstein said. "And join him in condemning racism and Islamophobia in all forms. The emails were upsetting to read and especially upsetting to think that some of our fans were sort of put into a position where they had to even consider a connection between their favorite team and some of those types of views. And I just wanted to make that clear. I know I speak for all of us. That's where we stand.