Cubs Lefty James Russell Follows His Father's Footsteps





CHICAGO—How is the old man going to take this?

Lefthander James Russell grabbed one of the final spots in the bullpen and broke camp with the Cubs' parent club.

His father, former major league reliever Jeff Russell, will really have some anxious moments now.

The 24-year-old James allowed one earned run on nine hits with three walks and 11 strikeouts in 12 innings during Cactus League games to earn the spot. His father, who spent some time as a spring training instructor with the Rangers, was nearby.

"He was a nervous wreck every time I pitched," Russell told reporters. "He wanted me to make it just as much as I did."

At the beginning of camp, Russell, a 14th-round pick in 2007, was considered a long shot to make the club. But injuries to Angel Guzman and Jeff Gray helped open things up.

Russell had a 10-inning span without allowing a run and that helped manager Lou Piniella and his staff make the decision.

Piniella joked to the pitcher that had the fate of making the team would be determined by how Piniella hit Jeff Russell years ago.

"You know what he told me?" Piniella said. "He said 'Well, I hope you hit him really good,' That was pretty clever."

The two never faced each other.

Heading into this season, James had an 11-16, 4.63 mark in three seasons in the Cubs system. After impressing in the Arizona Fall League, Russell was a non-roster invitee to camp. 

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound lefthander's fastball hits the low 90s and his slider the low 80s. His changeup is his best pitch and had some Cactus League hitters off balance and fooled.

Cubbyhole

• Outfielder Tyler Colvin broke camp on the 25-man roster after hitting .468/.468/.753 in 25 Cactus League games. The prevailing wisdom is that Colvin will probably struggle at the major league level if he comes off the bench rather than getting everyday playing time. But with Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome in the outfield, he may not get much action. Still, Piniella said he would try to get Colvin, who can play all three outfield spots, three or four starts a week.

• Righthander Jeff Samardzija also made the 25-man roster but as a reliever rather than a starter. Lefthander Tom Gorzelanny and righthander Carlos Silva earned the final two spots in the rotation while Samardzija and lefty Sean Marshall were placed in the bullpen.