CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs said goodbye to several contributors over the past two seasons as they designated for assignment lefty pitcher James Russell and third baseman Mike Olt along with righty Rafael Soriano to make room on their 40-man roster for newcomers Austin Jackson, Quintin Berry and Trevor Cahill.
Russell was the biggest surprise as he's been with the team since early May but he struggled in his last few appearances -- including Monday night against the Cincinnati Reds. In his last 6 outings covering 5 1/3 innings Russell had given up 13 runs on 12 hits.
"He went into a slump recently," team president Theo Epstein said Tuesday. "With the 40-man roster crunch at this time of year we had to make some tough choices. He helped us get through a difficult part of the season."
Russell's ERA slowly climbed throughout the year as it was 1.86 in May, 2.00 in June, 6.00 in July and 11.57 in August. In the end he got beat out by Clayton Richard who the Cubs designated for assignment twice this year but liked his versatility enough to keep him. Richard is a candidate to start a game if he's needed, according to Epstein. So is minor leaguers Dallas Beeler and Eric Jokisch along with Tsuyoshi Wada who was called up on Tuesday.
"Beeler is throwing the ball well of late," Epstein said. "And Jokisch has turned his season around."
Epstein indicated the Cubs already have a couple of pitchers the team is trying to work back into shape for key moments like Fernando Rodney and possibly Neil Ramirez so trying to find time for Soriano wasn't in their plans.
"That's not an easy thing to do in a pennant race with one pitcher let alone two," Epstein said. "To add a third one here makes it difficult."
As for Olt, he was the odd man out most likely because there isn't a position for him moving forward as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are locked in at first and third base. Olt was going to be a 6-year minor league free agent after this season anyway. The Cubs kept control of some others in the system by losing a month of Olt. He never found traction with his new team after several injuries sidelined him over the past two seasons.