Maddon keeping close eye on Russell's health

Maddon keeping close eye on Russell's health

CHICAGO -- Addison Russell didn't join the Cubs last season until mid-April, and at the time he was the second baseman. It wasn't until early August that he moved to shortstop full-time, and then the Cubs lost him after four postseason games because of a hamstring injury.

How important is it for the Cubs to have him at shortstop for the full season?

"I think he's already demonstrated that in the first seven games," manager Joe Maddon said of the 22-year-old. "The ground ball to shortstop, you pretty much believe the guy's out. You take that for granted sometimes. I haven't always had that situation.

"When the ball's hit to him, the guy's out. I love what's going on between him and [second baseman Ben Zobrist]. I can see the communication going on. It's really important to keep [Russell] well."

Which means Russell may get a breather now and then, even though he is young. Maddon considered resting him last Sunday, but because right-hander Jake Arrieta was pitching, he wanted the best defensive lineup on the field.

On Monday night, Russell smacked a three-run homer in the eighth inning to lift the Cubs to victory over the Reds. Maddon expects more of that, too.

"You don't want any part of him to break down in the course of the season, he's that important," Maddon said. "I just have to keep an eye on it."

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.