Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Russell rising among relievers

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James Russell has turned into one of the best setup relievers in baseball--left-handed or right-handed.
But don't think he's forgotten about his first pitching goal--to be a starter.
``I still have that in the back of my mind,'' the lefty said Saturday. ``But right now it's not in the cards, so I'm going with the flow of reiieving.''
He's had smooth sailing in that flow.
Russell entered Saturday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks having allowed only two earned runs all season in 20 2/3 innings. He started the season throwing 17 straight scoreless innings and has thrown 25 scoreless innings in his 27 appearances, striking out 20 and walking only five.
The first run of the season he allowed came on May 8 against St. Louis and led to a blown save.
But since then, his ERA has declined steadily to 0.87, the second lowest for any National League reliever with at least 25 outings. Only Colorado's Rex Brothers, also a lefty, has a better one at 0.38 (1 ER/23 2/3 innings, 26 appearances.)
Russell, 27, last took the mound as a starter in 2011 when he made five spot starts. But even then, his ERA was also better as a reliever (2.19 in 49 relief appearances.)
``Starting is still a passion of mine,'' he said. ``I feel I'm starting to learn more about how to pitch. I feel I'm progressing as a pitcher, not just a relief pitcher.
``But I definitely love the bullpen now and the adreneline of coming in the seventh or eighth or ninth when it counts.''
Russell has given up only four hits in his last 10 appearances--and two were in his May 8 game when he last gave up a run. He's yielded only one hit in his last six appearances.
``I'd like to go no-hit every time out, but that's not going to happen,'' he said. ``But it's just good to have a good feel for how things are going now.''

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This page contains a single entry by Toni Ginnetti published on June 1, 2013 4:43 PM.

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