Cubs Spring Training Mega-Preview: James Russell

Just because you pitch left-handed does not mean you should be a starter is what the Cubs should be thinking. If your five pitchers are all right-handed, then so be it. The last few years, the Cubs were able to have Ted Lilly anchor the left side and do it quite well.

Mike Quade said that James "Not Jeff" Russell will compete for a rotation spot this spring. Granted, Russell is the only LHP option to start after the Cubs dealt Tom Gorzalanny to the Nationals last month. The problem is that Russell hasn't been an effective starter at any level for the Cubs.


Russell hasn't been a full-time starter since 2008, where he had a 5.44 ERA in 127 innings. The Cubs had him starting a little bit in 2009, but by 2010 he was a full-time reliever. I'm guessing that Mike Quade wants Russell stretched out a little bit to use him as a long reliever type against teams that are heavy on the left side (i.e. Phillies). Since he's been better against the lefties. While not a true LOOGY, Russell should improve as he gets older, as he's only 25 right now.

The one thing that killed Russell last year was HR's. He gave up 11 of them on the season, whith eight coming at home. I took at a look at the splits, and was just as generous to RHB (6HR) as to LHB (5). He actually faced more righties last season, so it's alarming to see him give up so many long balls to lefties in 37 less at bats. One thing that Lou probably loved was the fact that Russell didn't walk many batters. He had a 4 to 1 K/BB rate last year, but again he did give up 55 hits in 49 innings.

There has been a lot of speculation about the back end of the bullpen. Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood have slots. Two of the other slots probably are going to guys like Andrew Cashner and John Grabow. That means that Russell would have to pitch really poorly not to make the team. What do you guys think?

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