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Cubs hopeful Addison Russell can return to lineup before end of regular season

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is out at least another three weeks after he reaggravated a plantar fasciitis injury before a rehab start Wednesday. The Cubs are hopeful Russell could return by the end of the regular season or for the playoffs, but they're unsure of a timeline.

"It's about getting him ready," manager Joe Maddon said after his team beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Thursday night. "We don't know how this is going to play out. He's injured. We're getting him well. Once he's well, we'll make that determination. There's nothing really to project upon except for getting him well."

Russell has been out of the lineup since Aug. 2 and was close to returning after playing a game at Triple-A Iowa on Monday, but before Wednesday's contest he felt soreness and the Cubs shut him down. The lingering injury means Javy Baez will remain the starting shortstop as he has played every game since Russell went down.

"I have [gotten] my rest during the whole season on the days I didn't play," Baez said. "I'm not going to get tired because I want to play every day. I'll be ready every day to make adjustments ... Playing shortstop is my natural position, so I should not have any problems with it."

The Cubs have gone 16-11 without Russell in the lineup, mostly behind a dynamic offense which leads the major leagues in scoring since the All-Star break. Third baseman Kris Bryant hit his 25th home run Thursday making him just the 12th player in MLB history -- and first Cub ever -- to hit at least 25 home runs in each of his first three seasons. Meanwhile, first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the first Cub since Sammy Sosa in 2001 to drive in 30 runs in a calendar month.

The Cubs have enough overall depth to overcome the Russell injury, though they're weaker at second base with Baez now at shortstop. Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ are expected to see the majority of time at second, but neither is the defender that Baez is. More concerning to Maddon is what's behind Baez at short now. There isn't another natural shortstop on the roster.

"We think we're fine," Maddon said. "I really believe we have to keep Javy well. We really have to protect Javy is what we have to do. I have to give him a day off now and then."

The Cubs will call up infielder Mike Freeman from Triple-A Iowa on Friday when rosters expand. He has started 22 games at shortstop in the minors this season, but the team did not make any last minute waiver-deadline deals for an infielder. Instead, they picked up outfielder Leonys Martin from the Seattle Mariners along with cash for a player to be named later or cash. Martin provides defensive and pinch-running ability as the Cubs fortify for the stretch run. He has 114 career steals but just a .300 on-base percentage.

"Without Addison there, that is a really difficult thought," Maddon said.