Left-hander James Russell has gone from being the workhorse of the Cubs bullpen to the forgotten man.
Entering Monday night's game against the White Sox, Russell had worked in just one game since April 23, and that was an appearance of just one-third of an inning Saturday against the Cardinals.
The 28-year-old Russell worked in 74 games last year and 77 in 2012. Both he and the Cubs insist he's healthy.
"It's a little bit different," Russell said. "We haven't really been playing many teams that have a lot of lineups set up to where I can get extended work. It's just one of those things. It happens. I haven't really talked to them or anything about it. I figure if they have a problem, they'd come to me and tell me. I feel great.
"Body feels great. Everything feels good. It's just kind of the luck of the draw, I guess."
Russell entered Monday at 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA, 2 blown saves and a WHIP of 1.83.
Lately, Wesley Wright has been manager Rick Renteria's lefty of choice out of the bullpen after he was little used in the early days of the season.
"He has been doing a little better job," Russell said. "I didn't start as well as I have the last two years. I'm not worried about it. As long as we keep winning, so be it."
Hard work pays off:
Rick Renteria was asked about the solid starts of shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, both of whom are being counted on for bounce-back years.
"I think their work and their game certainly has started to show some fruit," Renteria said. "What they've been doing through the spring has been really similar in terms of their approaches. Now that you've got some games under your belt, you're starting to see some numbers, some walks, some hits, some balls driven.
"As a consequence of everything they've actually worked on and now they're gaining some fruit from it, confidence continues to grow. But they're doing hopefully what everybody hopes they would do. It's a long season. Hopefully it's something that maintains and is consistent over the course of a year."
Outfield prospect Jorge Soler was scheduled to play in a game at Arizona on Monday as he rehabs a hamstring injury. The Cubs hope he can return to action soon at Class AA Tennessee.
Reliever Jose Veras, who is on the DL with an oblique strain, is at Tennessee and will begin a rehab stint soon, perhaps later this week.
Reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who is recovering from last year's Tommy John surgery, is "ramping up" his activity in Arizona. There is no timetable on game action for Fujikawa.
Pitching prospect C.J. Edwards is working on strength and range-of-motion activities at Tennessee, where he is recovering from right-shoulder fatigue.