Russell leaves Chicago with warm Cubs memories
Thursday was a day of mixed emotions for James Russell.
The Cubs traded the veteran left-handed reliever to the Atlanta Braves along with infielder-outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. In return, the Cubs got catching prospect Victor Caratini.
Russell, 28, came up with the Cubs in 2010, when the organization was quite a different place. Jim Hendry was the general manager and the colorful Lou Piniella was the field manager.
Nowadays, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer run the baseball show, and they decided to part ways with a pair of veterans to continue building the farm system. The Braves get a reliever who is willing to take the ball almost every day along with a speedy and versatile position player.
"It's kind of hard to wrap your head around it," Russell said. "It's obviously a shock. I kind of knew things were going to happen. There's nothing you can really do to prepare yourself for this. It's still kind of weird. I don't know how to feel. There's a lot of excitement, a lot of mixed emotions. It's going to be a good thing."
Russell found out about the trade during Thursday's game against the Rockies at Wrigley Field. He was sitting in the bullpen before heading in to use the restroom. While in the dugout, he got word that the bosses wanted to see him. From there, he hugged his former mates and was on his way.
"It was nice because I got to say goodbye to some of the guys and make the rounds," he said. "Who knows when I'll see some of these boys again."
Russell has seen it all, but he remembers the "old days" fondly.
"There are a lot memories," he said. "Getting to play with D-Lee (Derrek Lee) and Kerry Wood and Demp (Ryan Dempster) and (Ted) Lilly and having Lou as a manager, it's just some of the things you'll never forget. It's fun. You're always going to remember the first place you start out with."
A durable lefty, Russell appeared in 316 games with the Cubs, all but 5 in relief. This season, he went 0-2 with a 3.51 ERA and 1 save in 44 games. He appeared in 74 games last year, 77 in 2012 and 64 in 2011.
Although he was effective most of the time, he did go through slumps, and much of it was attributed to overuse. However, Russell never shied away from taking the ball, something he said he learned from his father, former big-league closer Jeff Russell.
"My dad's always taught me to just take the ball and be a gamer," he said. "You can't really make a paycheck while siting on the training table. You might as well go out there and earn your money and put food on your family's table. Not everybody gets to be a professional baseball player, so you might as well go out and do it every day."