Will Kimbrel, Russell return for Cubs huge series vs. Cards?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Cubs' Addison Russell falls to the ground after being hit by a pitch during the third inning against the Milwaukee Brewers. Injured Cubs players Craig Kimbrel and Russell are close to returning to the active list.

    Cubs' Addison Russell falls to the ground after being hit by a pitch during the third inning against the Milwaukee Brewers. Injured Cubs players Craig Kimbrel and Russell are close to returning to the active list. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/18/2019 8:17 PM

Closer Craig Kimbrel and infielder Addison Russell both took part in full pregame drills before Wednesday night's Chicago Cubs game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Kimbrel is close to coming off the injured list after recovering from right-elbow inflammation, and Russell will be eligible to come off the concussion IL. It's possible either or both could be activated in time for Thursday's series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

Kimbrel threw a 16-pitch simulated game Tuesday. and took part in Wednesday's normal pregame routine. Russell took part in early fielding work and full batting practice Wednesday.

"He's trending well," manager Joe Maddon said of Russell. "All of our guys are kind of trending well. We don't have a finality on it yet, but he's doing better. He still remains in (concussion) protocol."

Russell had played shortstop in place of the injured Javier Baez (thumb injury), but he was hit in the head with a pitch at Milwaukee on Sept 8. Rookie Nico Hoerner has filled in well at short for Russell and it's even possible he'll remain the starter once Russell is activated.

Pressure, what pressure?

The Cubs have been in crunchtime for the entire month of September. Joe Maddon was reminded of one his favorite sayings: "Never permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure."

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Maddon's message Wednesday was: Bring it on.

"We've done it before, and honestly, it's more fun," said Maddon, whose team is seeking its fifth straight postseason appearance. "It's more fun this way. With all due respect, ask Cincinnati. Would they rather be in this moment or that moment? You want this feeling. I've talked about that often, if there's the word 'pressure' or whatever is attached to it, my goodness, run toward it. That's the only way to do what we do.

"At the end of the day, somebody's going to win and somebody's going to lose. But, to be in this position at this time of the year with something on the line is what we all strive for."

The players know the drill.

"These (games) are what we all look for, pressure-packed last couple weeks of September and rolling into possibly the postseason," said left fielder Kyle Schwarber. "This is what we play the game for. The fans are going to be on to it. They're going to be into every single pitch."

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