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Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell learning 'wow' factor at second base

CHICAGO -- Like any minor league player, Addison Russell dreamed of being promoted to the major leagues. He knew it would be an adjustment, but didn’t realize how much of one until the Chicago Cubs brought him up in late April.

After playing just five or six games at the position in the minors, Russell was suddenly the Cubs' everyday second baseman.

"Playing a new position and learning it at the big-league level, it's pretty challenging, mentally and physically," he said before Sunday night's game with the Cincinnati Reds. "But physically, I know I have the skills to play second base, a good second base, and it's been working out so far."

Russell played exclusively at shortstop until his last week in the minors.

"Mentally at second base, it's a whole new ballgame," he said. "They're different type of plays. There are plays that you're use to making at short, you may kick at second because it's a different angle. It's kind of frustrating but you just have to get back to trusting your ability."

At 21, Russell has done well enough that he'll be the starter at the position for the remainder of the season barring some unforeseen circumstance.

He entered Sunday's game batting .245 with four home runs and 17 RBIs. He's done well in the clutch, as 12 of his RBIs have come with two outs.

As for his defense, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he's "ecstatic" with the way he has made the transition.

"He's been outstanding," Maddon said. "The mistakes he's made, it doesn't matter if he was at second, short or third, those are really routine plays that he normally makes.

"The one, I think, second-base mistake he's made was like a flip from [shortstop] Starlin [Castro] in Arizona on a potential double play where there was no chance for one and he tried to be too quick with. Otherwise ... like the one the other night, that was just a routine ground ball that can [happen] at shortstop or wherever."

The play Maddon referred to came late in Friday's loss to the Reds. A Russell error proved costly and led to a game-winning rally.

"I think he's made some great plays," Maddon said. "He's learning to turn a double play extremely well. He's gotten better going to his right to the middle. I couldn't be more pleased with what he's doing, and I expect him to make mistakes. I know he's gonna make mistakes, so I don't get upset with them."

Russell also has shown resiliency. Following the error on Friday, he made a diving backhand stop up the middle and quickly got to his feet to throw to first for the out in the first inning Saturday.

Like many of the other young Cubs getting their first taste of the majors, Maddon expects Russell to improve as the season progresses.

"I rely on my minor-league training," said Maddon, who was a long-time minor-league instructor with the Los Angeles Angels. "You see guys in April and then in the minor leagues you'd see them in August and there'd be like these quantum leaps in performance April to August.

"With good health, by August you're gonna say, 'Wow,' with some of these young guys."