Addison Russell is not in the starting lineup again today, and has not appeared in a spring game in a week thanks to a tight back. The expectation remains that he’ll return before the Sunday night regular season opener in St. Louis, and I’m not here to sound any alarm bells. We see this kind of caution every year in Spring Training, and then we also see guys play without rust almost right away.
Russell says he doesn’t think a disabled list stint is going to be necessary, and Joe Maddon told CSN that the Cubs’ trainer believes Russell is “going to be fine over the next couple days.”
Even today, Russell says he’s feeling good, and could play tomorrow:
Russell (not in lineup) says he's 109 percent, will take more swings today.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 29, 2017
Russell: back health has gone from 95% to 100% since Tues. But plans are for him to ease into action, play Thurs, and be ready for opener.
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) March 29, 2017
Reserve any panic for more serious injuries.
I do, however, want to point out a couple things, and about why you shouldn’t freak out if Russell does, somehow, find his way on the disabled list to begin the season. No, it’s not necessarily a matter of the situation deteriorating or the Cubs hiding the ball on injuries.
With the minimum stay on the disabled list shrunk to 10 days this season (down from 15), teams can afford to be more liberal in their DL usage with precisely these kinds of injuries. If you feel like a guy has a five-day injury, for example, you probably would tough it out with a short bench for those five days if the disabled list required that player to miss three times as many days. But at just ten days? Taking advantage of the DL for a “five-day injury” makes so much more sense.
In this particular situation, the possibility of a DL stint could also make sense from a roster standpoint, as the Cubs are dealing with two big-league-caliber players for one bench spot (Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella). If a trade isn’t there for Szczur right now, having another player begin the season on the DL at least punts the question of how to handle Szczur/La Stella down the road a little bit (at which time things may have resolved themselves organically). [INSTANT UPDATE: As this post was publishing, the Cubs revealed that lefty Brian Duensing would begin the season the DL, which basically does this very thing I’m talking about … but with Duensing instead of Russell. Back to the original post.]
You wouldn’t put a player like Addison Russell on the DL *solely* for roster management purposes, but using that knowledge as a tie-breaker? Maybe.
Lastly, because the possible DL stint would be coming at the start of the season, it can actually be backdated a couple days. That means, in a hypothetical scenario where Addison Russell began the season on the DL, thanks to the backdating and early-season off days, he’d actually miss only five games during his ten-day minimum stay.
So, then. Against all that backdrop, if it’s a close question on Russell’s readiness to go in an amped-up, cold-weather opener, maybe a short DL stint wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
But, that said, I’m not advocating for a DL stint or even suggesting it’s likely. Russell and Maddon are flat out saying it is not likely. Instead, I just thought this an opportune situation to talk through the contours of the new disabled list, and how it could be utilized if Russell still isn’t quite 100% by this weekend.