Reliever Russell happy to make return to Cubs

Lefty allows one run in 1 1/3 innings in Chicago's loss to Cardinals

Reliever Russell happy to make return to Cubs

ST. LOUIS -- James Russell barely had time to meet his new teammates who have arrived since he last pitched for the Cubs on July 29 before he was in the visitor's bullpen at Busch Stadium.

"I had enough time to shower, get ready and go meet some faces," he said.

The left-handed pitcher, who began his big league career with the Cubs, rejoined the team Tuesday when his contract was selected from Triple-A Iowa. He was traded from Chicago to Atlanta last July 31, then released by the Braves in late March. The Cubs signed him to a Minor League deal, and after not giving up a run at Triple-A Iowa, he was back, wearing No. 40 again.

"Same number, same everything," Russell said. "I think they kept it in storage or something."

He arrived just before 6:30 p.m. CT for the 7:15 p.m. start, and he was called on in the sixth. The Cardinals had taken a 6-4 lead against Edwin Jackson, the bases were loaded and there was one out. All Russell needed was two pitches to take care of Matt Adams and end the inning.

The Cubs' bullpen needed a fresh arm. With Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez both on the disabled list, manager Joe Maddon has been trying to find stoppers. It hasn't been working too well lately. Chicago's bullpen has given up 17 runs over 19 innings in the last six games, including three on Tuesday in a 7-4 St. Louis win.

Russell was surprised the Braves released him in March.

"Definitely shocked," he said. "Things happen for a reason. One door closes, and one opens. Here I am, and I'm happy to be here. The grass wasn't as green on the other side. It happens."

He's reunited with pitching coach Chris Bosio and bullpen coach Lester Strode, but there's been a lot of turnover.

"It's comfortable to be back," Russell said. "It's a good feeling. The culture has kind of changed for the better. It's definitely nice."

He had other offers, but as soon as Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called, Russell wanted to return.

"Once Theo called, my mind was pretty much set," Russell said. "It's cool to finally see things turn around. We had some pretty rough years for four, five years. It's nice to see something change for the better."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for 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.