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Should Addison Russell move up in Cubs' order?

CHICAGO -- In examining Chicago Cubs storylines this week that might have more than one right answer, second baseman Addison Russell is a perfect example of one that might qualify. Not the player but where he bats in the lineup. Currently, he's hitting ninth, much to the dismay of many fans who want to see him moved up -- especially with current lead-off man Dexter Fowler on the mend from an ankle injury.

"I think Addison is doing really, really well where he is sitting [hitting]," manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday afternoon. "I don't want to mess with it."

Maddon has repeated that thought several times since Russell came up and did again on Tuesday while inserting left fielder Chris Coghlan in the top spot in the order. And he says they have a "plan" in case they face a lefty without Fowler -- presumably that plan doesn't include Russell leading off then either.

The Cubs want Russell as relaxed as possible so batting him ninth makes sense to them. Are they wrong? Should he be moved up? A case can be made either way.

Russell is hitting .250 with a .314 on-base percentage and five home runs, but you can see strides in his game, especially this month. He's walked eight times in June, that's the same total he had in April and May combined. Would that progress be happening if he were hitting higher in the order? We'll never know, of course, but the Cubs feel hitting ninth is best for him.

"I'm not saying that he can't do it, but I don't know what it would do being out of his comfort zone," Maddon explained. "His on-base percentage is getting to respectability. I just like what he's doing, and I don't want to mess with him or his development."

That doesn't mean Russell couldn't be advancing even faster if he was surrounded by the top hitters on the team, but Maddon's desire to bat the pitcher eighth gave the Cubs an opportunity. They wanted to make sure Russell was seeing good pitches so hitting ahead of the pitcher wasn't a good idea. But hitting right before the top of the lineup -- with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant looming -- has provided the same kind of protection for Russell as if he's actually at the top of the order. In fact, Maddon calls him their second lead-off hitter. But it comes without the mental pressure of being a 21-year-old in the middle of a contending lineup.

On the other hand, there are many that don't want to see some of the Cubs' role players potentially getting an extra at-bat in a game over the more talented Russell. Mike Baxter, David Ross and Matt Szczur all hit ahead of him when they start. Maddon admits there are a few flaws hitting the pitcher eighth but refuses to think about moving Russell up-and-over those lighter hitting players.

"I have not," Maddon said when asked if he's thought about it.

At some point, of course, Russell will move closer to the top of the order -- he could be a traditional No.2 hitter or even a lead-off guy -- but should that happen this season or next? It's not like anyone knows for sure when he's ready for that responsibility. He might be right now. But the Cubs aren't taking any chances, and the rookie seems to have accepted the spot he's in and is starting to thrive in it.

Maybe either answer is right, but hitting ninth is the safer route for Russell's development and the path the Cubs have chosen.