James Russell (baseball)

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James Russell
James Russell pitching in Arlington in September 2014.jpg
Russell with the Atlanta Braves
Toros de Tijuana – No. 31
Relief pitcher
Born: (1986-01-08) January 8, 1986 (age 33)
Cincinnati, Ohio
Bats: Left Throws: Left
MLB debut
April 15, 2010, for the Chicago Cubs
MLB statistics
(through 2016 season)
Win–loss record10–18
Earned run average4.09

James Clayton Russell (born January 8, 1986) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League. He played college baseball at Navarro College and the University of Texas at Austin, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 14th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft out of Colleyville Heritage High School[1] and made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut on April 5, 2010. He has also played for the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.

College career[edit]

Russell attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a starting pitcher for the Texas Longhorns baseball team for one season after transferring from Navarro College. In his only season pitching for the Longhorns, Russell was named to the second team All-Big 12, while posting an 8–4 win–loss record and a 3.86 earned run average (ERA).[2]

Professional career[edit]

Chicago Cubs[edit]

Russell was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 14th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft.[3] On August 9, Russell signed a contract worth $350,000 with the Cubs.[4]

After signing, Russell was assigned to the Arizona League Cubs, the Rookie-level affiliate of Chicago. However, after just one start in which he only threw two innings, he was called up to the Single-A Peoria Chiefs, he pitched in two games for the Chiefs, striking out nine batters and allowing just three hits in seven innings.[5] With Peoria, Russell combined to throw a no-hitter on August 25, 2007.[6]

To start 2008, Russell joined the High-A Daytona Cubs. On April 26, he earned his first win of the season against the Jupiter Hammerheads.[7] Three days later, he was called up to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies,[8] he would pitch most of the season with the Smokies before being sent back down to the Cubs for the playoffs.[9] Combined, Russell went 6–8 with a 5.44 ERA and a 1.453 WHIP in 25 starts made.[5]

Russell began the 2009 season with Tennessee,[10] he eventually converted to being a relief pitcher for the Smokies, instead of being a starter.[11][12] After pitching 11 games for the Smokies, Russell was called up to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. With Iowa, he was mainly a reliever, but also made seven starts for the Cubs. Between Tennessee and Iowa, Russell went 5–6 with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.403 WHIP in 37 games, including 12 starts.[5] Following the season, he joined the Mesa Solar Sox, a team in the Arizona Fall League, which largely features players considered top prospects.[13]

In 2010, Russell made the Cubs Opening Day roster after giving up no runs in 11 innings of work during spring training[14] and debuted on opening day, April 5, with two scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves,[15][16] he became the 97th former Texas Longhorn to make his major league debut.

In 2010, Russell also helped extend Texas' streak of having a former player debut in the major leagues from eight consecutive seasons to nine,[2] he made 20 appearances for the Cubs, going 0–1 with a 4.20 ERA before being optioned to Triple-A Iowa on June 12.[17] However, after making just five appearances for Iowa, Russell was recalled by the Cubs on June 29, after Carlos Zambrano was placed on the restricted list and John Grabow went on the disabled list,[18] he finished the season with a 1–1 record, a 4.96 ERA, and a 1.347 WHIP in 57 appearances for the Cubs.[19] Following the season, the Chicago Tribune stated that the inclusion of Russell and three other inexperienced relievers in the Cubs' bullpen was one of the team's 10 biggest mistakes of the season.[20]

Russell with the Chicago Cubs (2012)

In 2011, Russell made 64 appearances with a 1-6 record, a 4.12 ERA, and 1.33 WHIP. He improved in 2012, recording a 7-1 record, 3.25 ERA, and 1.298 WHIP in 77 games. Russell ended 2013 having pitched in 74 games with a 1-6 record, a 3.59 ERA, and 1.215 WHIP.[19]

Atlanta Braves[edit]

Russell and Emilio Bonifacio were traded to the Atlanta Braves for Víctor Caratini on July 31, 2014,[21] he was released by the Braves during spring training in 2015.[22] Russell was signed to a minor league deal by the Chicago Cubs on April 8, 2015,[23] he went 0-2 with a 5.29 ERA for the Cubs in 2015 before being designated for assignment on September 1, 2015.[24]

Philadelphia Phillies[edit]

Russell signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on November 12, 2015,[25] he made the Phillies opening day roster in 2016. He was designated for assignment on April 20.

Cleveland Indians[edit]

On February 15, 2017, Russell signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians, with an invitation to major league spring training,[26] he was released on March 31, 2017.

Texas AirHogs[edit]

Russell signed with the Texas AirHogs of the American Association for part of the 2017 season, before leaving to play in the Mexican League.[citation needed]

Leones de Yucatán[edit]

On July 7, 2017, Russell signed with the Leones de Yucatán of the Mexican Baseball League, he was released on January 9, 2018. [27]

Detroit Tigers[edit]

On January 10, 2018, Russell signed a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers,[28] he was released on May 4, 2018.

Sugar Land Skeeters[edit]

On May 29, 2018, Russell signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, he became a free agent following the 2018 season.[citation needed]

Toros de Tijuana[edit]

On April 3, 2019, Russell signed with the Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League.[citation needed]

Pitching style[edit]

Unlike most pitchers who throw a fastball of some sort as their most common pitch, Russell's most common is a slider at 79–83 miles per hour (mph), he also features four-seam and two-seam fastballs (89–90 mph), a cutter (86–88 mph), a curveball (72–75 mph), and a changeup (80–83 mph). Left-handers see almost all four-seamers and sliders (and no change-ups), while right-handers see a larger variety of pitches.[29]


He is the son of former MLB pitcher Jeff Russell[30] and attended Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Muskat, Carrie (June 12, 2013). "Cubs' Russell grew up in big league parks". MLB.com. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Former Longhorn Russell makes Major League Baseball debut, University of Texas at Austin, April 6, 2010.
  3. ^ MLB Draft Tracker, MLB.com.
  4. ^ Pitcher Russell signs with Cubs, won't return, Austin American-Statesman, August 9, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c James Russell Minors, Baseball-Reference.com.
  6. ^ Chiefs' Struck pitches abbreviated no-no, MLB.com, May 1, 2010.
  7. ^ Hammerheads Struggles Continue, minorleaguebaseball.com, April 26, 2008.
  8. ^ Smokies Make Multiple Roster Changes, oursportscentral.com, April 29, 2008.
  9. ^ Texas Exes headed for minor league posteason, CSTV, September 2, 2008.
  10. ^ TN Smokies announce 2009 Opening Day Roster & Activities, volunteertv.com, April 6, 2009.
  11. ^ Smokies score three in the seventh to win Sunday, oursportscentral.com, April 26, 2009.
  12. ^ Braves & Tennessee Smokies Split Marathon, volunteertv.com, May 8, 2009.
  13. ^ Cashner, Vitters to play in Fall League, MLB.com, August 25, 2009.
  14. ^ Lilly being readied for return to staff, MLB.com, March 29, 2010.
  15. ^ Colvin makes Cubs' Opening Day roster, MLB.com, March 28, 2010.
  16. ^ Bullpen gets mixed results in opener, MLB.com, April 5, 2010.
  17. ^ Cubs recall right-hander Atkins, USA Today, June 12, 2010.
  18. ^ Cubs put Zambrano on restricted list, Grabow out, Associated Press, June 29, 2010.
  19. ^ a b James Russell, Baseball-Reference.com.
  20. ^ Top Cubs mistakes in 2010, Chicago Tribune, September 27, 2010.
  21. ^ "Braves get INF-OF Bonifacio, LHP Russell from Cubs". ESPN.com. Associated Press. July 31, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  22. ^ "Braves release lefty James Russell". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. March 29, 2015.
  23. ^ Eddy, Matt (April 13, 2015). "Minor League Transactions: April 3–9". Baseball America. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  24. ^ Muskat, Carrie (September 1, 2015). "Baez, callups join Cubs along with Jackson". MLB.com. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  25. ^ Kaplan, Jake (November 13, 2015). "Phillies sign reliever James Russell to minor-league deal". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  26. ^ "Indians invite LHP James Russell to Major League camp". Indians.com. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  27. ^ http://yucatan.com.mx/deportes/james-russell-nuevo-pitcher-los-leones
  28. ^ "James Russell: Signs minor-league contract with Detroit". CBSSports.com. January 10, 2018.
  29. ^ "Brooks Baseball · Home of the PitchFX Tool – Player Card: James Russell". Brooks Baseball. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  30. ^ Russell unlikely member of Cubs’ roster, Chicago Tribune, March 30, 2010.
  31. ^ Muskat, Carrie; McCalvy, Adam (March 13, 2012). "Gallardo, Russell share bond from childhood". MLB.com. Retrieved August 2, 2014.

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