"He's in an entirely different stance and setup and start to his swing," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Russell, who is batting .237 overall. "It's much more efficient. He's getting to fastballs much better. I think he's making better decisions at the plate.
"I think he's at the point where he thinks he can hit anything hard, which may work against you sometimes. He's in a really good position to hit right now."
What's the difference?
"Talking to [Mallee] about baseball, he's trying to get my mind off numbers and stuff like that," Russell said. "I just go out there and do what's comfortable. I'm seeing the ball well. Even my outs are aggressive. I'm not slapping the ball on the ground, I'm barreling the ball up and just missing it. It's a good thing now."
Mallee isn't the only one trying to get Russell to think about something other than the game. Maddon gave the infielder a book to read -- Stephen King's "11/22/63." Russell gives Maddon updates.
The infielder got off to a rough start when first promoted from Triple-A in April, but he's feeling better after the sessions with Mallee and the break.
"Things are coming around," Russell said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.