Results tagged ‘ James Russell ’

7/4 Cubs lineup

The All-Star Game is considered the halfway mark in the season, but Wednesday is the Cubs’ official midway point. It’s game No. 81 of the season. Chicago has won six of its last eight games, it’s best eight-game stretch since Sept. 4-12, 2011. The Fourth of July hasn’t been kind. The Cubs have lost 11 of their last 13 games on the holiday. Paul Maholm takes the mound as the Cubs try to bounce back against the Braves. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

LaHair RF

Soto C

Barney 2B

Valbuena 3B

Maholm P

Extra bases:

* Tony Campana is second in the Major Leagues with 25 stolen bases, yet has played 57 games. He’s topped his season total of 24 set last year, and is one of three Cubs since 2000 to reach 25 steals before the All-Star break. The list includes Eric Young (27) in 2000 and Juan Pierre (30) in ’06.

* James Russell has a 2.28 ERA in 99 games out of the bullpen since the start of the 2011 season. It’s the second-lowest mark by a NL left-hander in that span.

* Matt Garza (4-6, 4.01 ERA) closes the series on Thursday against lefty Mike Minor (4-6, 6.20 ERA).

— Carrie Muskat

5/30 Father and son

Cubs lefty James Russell recorded the first save of his Major-League career in the Cubs’ 5-3 win Tuesday over the Padres. Russell’s father, Jeff, saved 186 games during a 14-season career (1983-1996), leading the AL with 38 saves in 1989 and ranking among the league’s top 10 in every season from 1991 through 1995. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Russells are the fourth father and son combo who each saved at least one game in the majors. The others were Julio and Jaime Navarro, Pedro Borbon Sr. and Jr., and Steve and Jason Grilli.
— Carrie Muskat

5/27 Dolis out as closer

Rookie Rafael Dolis is out for now as the Cubs closer and James Russell and possibly Shawn Camp will share the role, manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. Dolis, who had taken over for Carlos Marmol, hit a batter with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Sunday to force in the Pirates’ game-winning run in a 3-2 win over the Cubs.

“That’s the frustrating thing with the back end of the bullpen is giving it up because of walks and hit batters,” Sveum said Sunday. “Nobody is hitting the ball and doing things. We’re imploding by walking guys and hitting guys.”

Dolis, 22, gave up a single and walked two batters before he hit Matt Hague with a pitch.

“It’s a combination of youth and being put in a situation he probably shouldn’t be put in, for obvious reasons,” Sveum said of Dolis, who was projected to be one of the Cubs set-up pitchers this season but was switched after Marmol struggled. “It’s funny because he started out doing a nice job. Now it’s a combination of making sure you repeat the mechanics that he has in the bullpen. He’s throwing great bullpens and he gets on the mound and wants to recoil and fall off and do these things. It’s a matter of being able to get on the mound, no matter what inning it is or how many outs, and repeat your delivery and throw back to back quality pitches.”

Russell has four career saves, none this year. Camp is 10-for-23 in save opportunities in his career.

“We’ll see how it all pans out,” Sveum said. “Hopefully, [Matt] Garza throws nine innings and we won’t have to worry about it.”

Marmol, currently on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, will make his second rehab outing Sunday for Triple-A Iowa and could join the Cubs Monday or Tuesday when they open a brief three-game homestand against the Padres.

— Carrie Muskat

5/11 Dolis the designated closer

This weekend, Rafael Dolis is the designated closer. Dale Sveum will try to give Dolis or James Russell a heads up during batting practice as to who will handle the ninth. Sveum has shown a lot of faith in the youngsters who have taken over for Carlos Marmol.

“You’re open minded to everything for the most part but the bottom line is performance,” Sveum said. “We talked about it in Spring Training — was Dolis going to be able to handle the seventh, eighth, ninth inning with the lead, and he has. He’s thrown strikes and been able to get back in counts with strikes after he’s thrown a couple balls. He’s proven he can do it. When guys prove they can do it, you have to use them and give them that confidence, too.”

He said it’s difficult to determine if a player has the right mentality for the job until their in those situations.

— Carrie Muskat

5/8 Dolis, Russell could share closer role

Dale Sveum doesn’t have a specific check list of things he wants Carlos Marmol to do to return to his role as the closer. In fact, rookie Rafael Dolis and lefty James Russell could take over for the rest of the season. What Sveum wants to see is not just a confident pitcher but also Marmol throwing something other than his slider.

“[He threw a] 3-2 slider to a guy who can’t hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Sveum said of Marmol’s outing Monday. “Those are the kind of things I want to start seeing before I put him back in the closer’s role, to be able to throw a 3-2 fastball and see how far it can get hit.”

Dolis has a win and a save in his last two outings.

“I’m not going to make change to make change,” Sveum said. “If Dolis is doing well and [James] Russell is doing well in that role, I won’t make change to make change.”

Theo Epstein said he liked how Marmol said he responded to the fans’ booing Monday night by turning it into something positive and motivating him.

“I think everyone has to recognize he wants to succeed as much as anyone else,” Epstein said. “No one wants to go out there and fail, especially in a role where you let your teammates down. He’s paid a lot of money to do a job and he’s got a lot of support around him, so it’s up to him to put the work in and fix himself. I haven’t seen any signs of him backing down so as long as he gives the effort and faces his challenges head on, we’re going to support him and get him where he needs to be to help us.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/7 To plunk or not to plunk

Manager Dale Sveum didn’t see Cole Hamels hit the Nationals’ Bryce Harper with a pitch on Sunday, but he did hear about the Phillies pitcher’s comments. Hamels plunked Harper in the back with a pitch in the first inning. Said Hamels: “I was trying to hit him. I’m not going to deny it. I’m not trying to injure the guy. They’re probably not going to like me for it but I’m not going to say I wasn’t trying to do it. I think they understood the message, and they threw it right back. That’s the way, and I respect it. They can say whatever they want.”

On Monday, Major League Baseball suspended Hamels for five games.

“I didn’t see it but, obviously, I’ve heard the quotes,” Sveum said Monday. “Interesting quotes. I don’t have any more comment on that. They were just interesting quotes, that’s for sure.”

Pitcher James Russell was watching a replay in the clubhouse on Monday. Is there ever a time when it’s necessary to hit a guy with a pitch?

“There’s absolutely times when it’s necessary,” Russell said. “I don’t think you need to go out and tell people, ‘Hey, I did it on purpose,’ and brag about it. That’s kind of stupid and immature. It’s part of the game. You’re supposed to just do it and keep your mouth shut about it, not go tell everybody about it.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/4 Russell prepped for new role

Lefty James Russell now finds himself sharing the closer’s role with Rafael Dolis after Carlos Marmol was removed from the job.

“It’s nothing you wanted to see happen,” Russell said Friday about taking over for Marmol. “Whoever gets the save, gets the save now. Hopefully that will work for the time being until Carlos comes back and finds himself and fixes some things. I don’t see it playing out the whole year, by any means.”

Russell has been effective this season, stranding four inherited runners. He has not given up a run in nine appearances over 7 2/3 innings, and has walked four while striking out eight. He has four career saves and in close and late situations, he’s held batters to a .167 average and given up two hits in 12 at-bats.

“They say the last three are the hardest three to get,” Russell said. “We’ll burn that bridge when we get there.”

Hopefully, Russell inherited something from his father, Jeff, who pitched from 1983-96, and saved 38 games in ’89 with the Rangers.

“I like to think closers are a little screwy in the head so maybe he passed that down to me,” James said of his dad. “It’ll be fun. You’ve got to have a little bit of, I don’t know, something wrong with you to be a closer. For the most part, Carlos has handled it really well. I don’t know why this year is kind of going the way it is. Unfortunately, that’s how it’s happened. We’ll see — either myself, [Kerry Wood], [Shawn] Camp could get some saves, Dolis has been throwing the ball well.”

Is he screwy in the head?

“A little bit,” Russell said. “If you’re a baseball player, you have to be a little bit messed up.”

Marmol sat across the clubhouse from Russell as he conducted the interview.

“I feel for him a lot,” Russell said. “Our job has been to get him the ball. He’s here for a reason and I’m sure he’ll figure it out and it won’t be too long before he’s getting as many saves as he can.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/4 Marmol out as closer

When your closer leads the team in walks, that’s not a good sign. Dale Sveum had seen enough, and called Carlos Marmol into his office on Friday to tell the right-hander that for now, he was no longer the Cubs closer.

“I just told Marmol be ready to pitch at any time,” Sveum said Friday. “It just got to that point to where we have to get him productive in some role. He was fine with it and understood. Hopefully, we can get him going and give him another chance.”

Part of the problem is that Marmol keeps throwing the slider and on Thursday in Cincinnati, might have escaped the mess in the ninth with a well located fastball. Bottom line, he has to throw strikes. Against the Reds, Marmol blew a 3-0 lead and gave up three runs, and the Cubs eventually lost, 4-3, in 10 innings. He has now walked 12 over 8 2/3 innings.

James Russell and rookie Rafael Dolis will share the duties, depending on matchups.

“You always hope somebody steps up and takes control of any situation and any role you give somebody,” Sveum said. “It’s not the easiest thing to do in the world, to get the last three outs in the game. We’re going to play it by ear and whatever matchups come up in the ninth inning, that’s who we’ll use.”

Using Russell in that role will severely limit the Cubs. He’s the only left-hander. Sveum is stuck because the Cubs want to keep Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo, who is trying to make the jump from Class A to the big leagues, and neither Michael Bowden nor Shawn Camp have options left.

Will Marmol ever get his job back?

“He knows he has to get better and find it,” Sveum said. “I left that window open for him. If he starts pitching well and getting command back and stuff like that, there’s no reason I wouldn’t put him back in the closing role if he finds it again.”

Sveum continued his conversation with Marmol in left field during batting practice, and then Kerry Wood talked to Marmol on the field as well Friday.

— Carrie Muskat 

3/26 Cubs release Miller

The Cubs released left-hander Trever Miller, who had a 5.40 ERA in eight Cactus League games. Miller, 38, had signed as a free agent in January. He has pitched for eight different teams, including the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Red Sox last year. This spring, he gave up five earned runs on seven hits over 8 1/3 innings, and all of those runs came in one outing, March 17, against the Rangers. With the move, Scott Maine and James Russell are the only left-handed relievers still in camp. The Cubs spring roster was at 40.

— Carrie Muskat

2/21 The bullpen, backup catcher, Jackson & more

In a perfect world, Dale Sveum said he’ll have two left-handers in his bullpen but he doesn’t consider either to be the prime set-up pitcher. That’s Kerry Wood’s job.

With Sean Marshall gone via trade to the Reds, the Cubs don’t have a designated lefty set-up pitcher. Sveum didn’t sound as if he minded as long as he can call on Wood.

“There’s got to be a lot of confidence from me coming from that spot to take Kerry Wood out of the game because there’s a lefty coming up,” Sveum said Tuesday. “Those last three outs are the biggest of the game and the three outs leading up to that are even bigger. Some guys are just built differently than other people as far as those outs.”

Among the lefties in the mix are James Russell, Jeff Beliveau, Scott Maine, Trever Miller, and John Gaub. Although Russell would like to take over Marshall’s role, Sveum described him as a “matchup guy” for now.

“He’s got the ability and endurance to go two innings,” Sveum said of Russell. “It all depends on what’s going on, the score of the game, what [the opposing team has] on the bench. He’s a guy who can go two innings, no doubt about it.”

Miller is a non-roster invitee who has pitched for the Tigers, Astros, Phillies, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Rays, Cardinals and Red Sox.

“He knows how to get left-handers out and that’s a big asset to have, depending on how your bullpen unfolds,” Sveum said.

* Josh Vitters was sad to see Chris Carpenter go to the Red Sox as part of the compensation for Theo Epstein. Vitters was one of the players whom Boston was considering.

“I’m definitely glad it turned out not being me,” he said.

Said Sveum: “Unfortunately, we lost a great arm in Chris. Fortunately for him, it came from a team that wanted him really, really, really bad and I think he’ll fall into some competition over there, too, to make the team as well as he had here. As well, he gets to go to a great organization and a great city. He leaves one great place and gets to go to another one. That’s not a bad way to be traded for the first time.”

* The Cubs selected right-handed pitcher Lendy Castillo in the Rule 5 Draft and must decide by Opening Day whether to keep him on the 25-man roster. Castillo threw on the side Tuesday for the second time this spring but Sveum wants to see him in games.

“The bottom line is what’s going on in those games when he gets innings to pitch,” Sveum said. “I’ve been around plenty of people — not that he’s doing anything wrong — but some people are different pitchers when they’re on the mound than when they’re throwing in the bullpen.”

* There are six catchers in Chicago’s spring camp, including starter Geovany Soto, and the fight for the backup job appears to be a battle between Welington Castillo, Jason Jaramillo and Steve Clevenger.

“I think it’s open competition especially since the only one I’ve seen play in person is Jaramillo when he was with the Pirates,” Sveum said. “It’s great competition and they all have a lot of great attributes to bring to a team. It’ll be an interesting fight.”

Jaramillo signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs on Jan. 18 after spending the last three seasons with the Pirates.

“I talked to a few teams and had the option to pick where I was going,” Jaramillo said Tuesday. “Getting the chance to talk to Theo [Epstein] and Dale, I liked the opportunity here. I understand there’s no guarantees. It’s not something I’m not accustomed to. I battled my way for three years in Pittsburgh. The competition is nothing new to me. I’m happy to be here, they said it’s a good opporutnity. Everything I’ve seen so far — the staff, the players — it’s really exciting. I’m really excited to be here.”

* Brett Jackson, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the 2009 Draft, is one of the early bird position players in camp. Sveum sounded just like a fan when he said he was looking forward to seeing the outfielder in games.

“I’ll give him a lot of opportunites to play in camp and see what this young man is capable of doing against quality big league pitching,” Jackson said. “I’ll try to put him in against quality big league pitchers to see how he reacts. To watch him the other day in person for the first time, to see how the ball comes off his bat and just the athleticism, that guy bounces around with athleticism. He’s one of those guys you look forward to seeing.”

* There are motivational messages on the players’ daily schedule, such as “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” That’s the work of bench coach Jamie Quirk, who relies on a book for the daily selection.

— Carrie Muskat