Maddon confident Russell can handle Majors

Despite prospect's youth, Cubs believe he's ready for big leagues

Maddon confident Russell can handle Majors

PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs considered how Addison Russell was hitting, how he performed this spring, how the big league team needed help at second base. But manager Joe Maddon looked at another element of Russell's game.

"When you're going to possibly promote somebody like him with limited experience, you have to look at the person," Maddon said Tuesday prior to Russell's Major League debut with the Cubs. "Do you think the guy can handle it? I'm not worried about him handling success -- how can he handle failure?

"I think he can and we think he can," Maddon said. "It may appear premature to some, but it's only done because you think he can deal with it. Part of it is need right now, and we do think he can handle it right now. The fact that he's been a quick study at second base helps."

Russell, 21, arrived at PNC Park a little surprised at getting the news from Triple-A Iowa manager Marty Pevey.

"I went to Triple-A with the mindset that I'm going to finish out at Triple-A," said Russell, who has played 14 games at the Triple-A level. "I'm excited. I think this is a good thing for me, and it's going to push me and I'm looking forward to it."

Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect, is now the youngest active player in the National League at 21 years and 88 days, beating the Nationals' Bryce Harper (22 years and 187 days). The youngest active players in the Majors are Blue Jays pitchers Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro. Both are 20 years old.

"I just like playing this game," Russell said. "I'm here for a reason."

When Kris Bryant made his big league debut last Friday at Wrigley Field, he was shadowed by the media, and every move was documented. Russell had a much quieter introduction, answering questions for about 10 minutes from the media in the clubhouse and then prepping for the game.

Bryant makes it to the show

"I think when you're playing in that first game, you're going on pure adrenaline," said Bryant, a veteran with four big league games under his belt. "[Russell] seems to be more relaxed, and I think that will play well in the first game. He's going to do great."

Bryant and Russell played together in the Arizona Fall League and again at Iowa last year and briefly this year.

"He's a gamer out there, and he'll be a presence in the lineup, that's for sure," Bryant said.

Russell was batting .318 in 11 games at Triple-A Iowa with four doubles and one home run. He played five games at second and six games at shortstop.

His grandfather, Jerry, made the trip to PNC Park from Pensacola, Fla., but Russell's parents and fiancee will wait until he gets to Wrigley Field to see him play.

The young infielder already has experienced a lot, having been traded last July from the Athletics to the Cubs. This time, when Pevey called, it was good news.

"I figured once he told me it was Marty, I figured this is the call," Russell said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.