Russell churning out appearances for Cubs

Russell churning out appearances for Cubs

CHICAGO -- Cubs left-hander James Russell has been one of the hardest-working relievers in baseball this season, entering Sunday with 56 appearances.

Russell is tied with Mets lefty Tim Byrdak for the second-most appearances in the Majors, one behind teammate Shawn Camp and Houston's Wesley Wright.

Russell took the loss Saturday -- his first of the year -- when he allowed two runs on five hits in the eighth inning of the Cubs' 4-2 loss to the Reds. Despite the defeat and a high workload this year, Russell said he's feeling fine as the season heads into mid-August.

"Body feels great," Russell said. "There's no sign of me getting dragged down. My body feels great, physically."

Russell, 26, is in his third Major League season. He's nearing his career high in appearance (64) and innings (67 2/3), both of which were set last year.

The reason for the added work is simple: Russell is putting together the best season of his career, posting his lowest ERA (3.59) while allowing fewer home runs -- five compared to double-digits the past two seasons.

Russell is also only two shy of his career high in strikeouts, although he's already issued a career-high 19 walks.