From beat writer Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com …
That move cleared up two 40-man roster spots for the Cubs’ first wave of September callups.
Russell, a 29-year-old left-handed specialist, was sporting a 5.29 ERA through 49 appearances this season for the Cubs. Soriano allowed eight hits and four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings with Chicago before landing on the disabled list August 4 with right shoulder inflammation. The 35-year-old right-hander will probably have to settle for another minor league contract this winter if he wants to continue his playing career.
Braves outfielder Nick Swisher swatted a home run from both sides of the plate on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley field against the Cubs. Batting left-handed against starter Dan Haren in the second inning, he clubbed a home run to the opposite field to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Then, in the fifth inning, he capped off a five-run frame when he drilled another two-run shot to left field against lefty reliever Travis Wood.
The Braves went on to lose 9-7 to the Cubs.
Swisher, 34, was traded by the Indians to the Braves along with outfielder Michael Bourn and cash in exchange for third baseman Chris Johnson. He entered play Saturday batting only .160 with one home run and four RBI in 28 plate appearances with his new team.
Watch Swisher’s two homers:
Released by the Brewers at the end of spring training, left-hander James Russell has signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs.
Russell pitched for the Cubs from 2010 until the middle of last season, when he was traded to the Braves. He has a 3.74 ERA in 219 career innings, but it comes with mediocre strikeout and walk rates.
He’ll head to Triple-A for now and has a good chance of rejoining the Cubs’ bullpen at some point this season in a middle relief role.
MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves have released left-hander James Russell.
Russell had an impressive 2.97 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 57 2/3 innings last season between the Cubs and Braves, but he was the odd man out for an Opening Day bullpen spot this spring with Atlanta. The nine earned runs he allowed in 7 2/3 Grapefruit League innings did not help his cause.
Russell, owner of a 3.74 ERA in 296 1/3 career major league frames, should find a new landing spot rather quickly. The Braves owed him around $600,000.
The 2014 Braves didn’t get a single relief appearance from a pitcher in his 30s. With John Hart at the helm, the 2015 Braves are going in a much different direction with the bullpen.
34-year-old Jose Veras is Hart’s latest pickup for the relief corps, joining Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Josh Outman and Matt Capps. Like Capps, Veras is getting a minor league deal, though he seems like a pretty good bet to claim a spot.
After saving 21 games with a 3.02 ERA in 2013, Veras received a one-year, $4 million deal to close for the Cubs last year. He was an immediate bust, amassing an 8.10 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, but after rejoining the Astros, whom he pitched for during the first two-thirds of 2013, he had a 3.03 ERA and a 37/16 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. Over the last three seasons, he had a 3.64 ERA and a 189/89 K/BB ratio in 175 2/3 innings.
As things stand now, Craig Kimbrel, Grilli, Johnson and James Russell would seem to be guaranteed spots in the Atlanta bullpen. Outman and Veras will be clear favorites for two of the three remaining spots. Ideally, Shae Simmons would be there, too, but the youngster needs to prove he’s healthy after missing most of the second half of last season with shoulder troubles. Lefties Luis Avilan and Ian Thomas will also provide competition.