CHICAGO — Addison Russell and the Chicago Cubs don’t believe the 2016 All-Star has become a completely changed man since his ex-wife accused him of physical and emotional abuse.
They do believe he has made positive strides, and with the Cubs needing an infielder for a depleted roster, Russell has been deemed the best option available.
Russell rejoined the surging Cubs on Wednesday after completing a 40-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy and spending extra time in the minors to get ready.
The Cubs recalled Russell from Triple-A Iowa, then started him at second base Wednesday night and in the eighth spot in the batting order against Miami. Russell was eligible to rejoin the team May 3 against St. Louis at Wrigley Field, but the organization opted to give him more time with the minor league club.
“This is not a finish line,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Esptein said. “This does not represent the end of the road or an accomplishment in any way, but there has been progress.”
Russell received a mix of polite applause and discernible boos from the Wrigley Field crowd when he walked to the plate in the third. The boos picked up after Russell struck out looking against Jose Urena.
The Cubs originally planned to recall Russell next week but moved that up after infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist went on the restricted list Wednesday to take an indefinite leave for undisclosed personal matters. Infielder Daniel Descalso remains limited to pinch hitting because of a sore left ankle.
The 25-year-old Russell was suspended last fall after a series of allegations made by ex-wife Melisa Reidy. He said in February he was accountable for his past actions and apologized for “the hurt and the pain” he caused.
Russell was working out in Arizona, playing in extended spring training games and meeting with a counselor twice a week before joining Iowa in late April. He batted .222 (10 for 45) with two doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs in 12 games for Iowa this season.
Russell hadn’t played for the Cubs since Sept. 19. The suspension covered the final 12 games in 2018 and the first 28 this year.
Epstein said Russell had not only been compliant with terms set out by the team and Major League Baseball, but continues to work with a counselor in what will be a long-term and possibly lifelong process.
Russell believes he’s ready to help Cubs on the field immediately, but realizes more is involved than on-field performance.
“I’m happy I’m here in Chicago, ready to help this team win,” Russell said from the Cubs dugout. “I’m continuing my therapy, and I know I’m making great strides.
“I’ve just improved with overall better relationships and better communication with my teammates, family and friends. Overall, I’m a better person. I’m happy I have this second opportunity and I’m looking forward and still improving as a person.”