"He's not shy," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the soft-spoken Russell. "Well, he's shy, but he's not shy. He's not afraid of that moment. He hits that gap in big moments, that right-central gap. This last road trip, the part I liked about his at-bats was that he was accepting walks. A big part of what you're seeing now is that he's swinging at better pitches."
Russell did draw three walks on Saturday against the Reds and hit a home run that game after going 0-for-6 in the opener last Thursday.
"I have to keep pushing forward and not change anything," Russell said of his approach. "If I'm seeing the ball good and I'm barreling it up, and it's not finding holes, I can't do much about it. I just have to go about my business the same way."
"He's ready for it," Chicago's Anthony Rizzo said. "He's not scared at all. His defense -- he has no idea what he means to this team. We try to tell him."
Rizzo has been pumping up the shortstop.
"Rizzo says I'm pretty good," Russell said.
Just pretty good?
"Pretty good," Russell said with a smile.
Russell's confidence matches the rest of the Cubs.
"The best way I can put it is we're just starting," Russell said. "It's still early in the year. I think if we keep doing what we're doing, we have a pretty good shot of winning a lot of baseball games."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.