Lefty Russell could be right fit in Cubs' rotation

Lefty Russell could be right fit in Cubs' rotation

MESA, Ariz. -- James Russell and Andrew Cashner made their annual pilgrimmage to El Paso, Texas, to buy new boots before getting to Arizona for Spring Training. They picked out some sweet ones. Now, the two pitchers are being fitted, so to speak, for new jobs with the Cubs.

It's a different spring for Russell, who could be the lone lefty in the Cubs' rotation if he makes the switch. Last year, he and Cashner were two of the rookies in the bullpen, but Russell had company from the left side in Sean Marshall and John Grabow, until he was injured. As far as Russell can tell, the only difference this spring is that he will probably throw more innings.

"I'm going to have to make the best of all of my pitches," he said Tuesday. "If I'm going to last, I have to get my pitch count down and make quality pitches all the time. You have to do the same thing if you're in the bullpen. You've got to make quality pitches and go out and hit your spots."

He has four to chose from -- a slider, changeup, fastball, and curve. Did he show all of those last year?

"Last year, I didn't get to throw my changeup a whole lot because I was coming in and facing lefties," he said. "I like throwing lefty-lefty changeups, but I didn't make it too big of a habit."

Cashner also will be stretched out this spring to fill one of the rotation spots. He and Russell are close.

"We're going to push each other," Russell said. "He'll get the best out of me and I'll get the best out of him, and if not, we'll slap each other around."

If starting doesn't work, Russell will likely be back in the bullpen.

"We're dumb enough to where it doesn't even bother us," he said. "We don't get fazed by too much. I don't know if it's our age or what. We're young and dumb and ready to go throw strikes."