Cubs to option Russell to Triple-A when ban over

SEATTLE -- Citing solely baseball reasons, Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the team will option infielder Addison Russell to Triple-A Iowa when his 40-game suspension for violating the league's domestic violence policy is up Thursday.

"There have been some real promising signs with his play. Six games just isn't enough to get fully up to speed to come up to the big league club," Epstein said Tuesday.

According to Epstein, Russell has been making progress in his off-the-field rehabilitation after accepting the suspension that stemmed from multiple allegations of abuse by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy.

According to league rules, Russell was allowed seven days in the minors as his suspension neared its end, but the Cubs have decided to leave him at Triple-A while he acclimates himself to second base again.

National League MVP runner-up Javier Baez has taken over at shortstop, Russell's natural position. The Cubs are seemingly stacked up the middle as David Bote has emerged as a key player, as well.

"He's going to split his time evenly between short and second," Epstein said of Russell.

The Cubs continue to stress Russell is being given a "conditional" second chance as the team regularly checks in with people in the 25-year-old's life. There is no "finish line" to the off-the-field work, Epstein said.

"There has been progress, even though there is a tremendous amount of work ahead for him," Epstein said. "He's put a lot of work in, as he needed to. Talking to the people in his life, they notice improvements in the way he's handling himself in important situations, improvements in his relationships and the way he's functioning as a father and a partner. Those are all good signs."

Epstein also addressed reports that the team was "threatening" media members for critical coverage of the story.

"If you want to write critical articles about Addison or about the club's handling, you're more than welcome to," Epstein said. "Seriously, we believe in the freedom of the press and this is an issue where we expect there to be strong opinions. People have their right to have those opinions and express them however they want.

"We would never try to stifle freedom of the press. The threat of reprisal to a media member about any topic, especially one of this nature, is not acceptable. I would be surprised if that happened with the Cubs, and if it did, I would want to know who it was and they wouldn't be working for the Cubs much longer. That's a fireable offense."