CHICAGO — Addison Russell says he understands the booing he has heard since returning to the Chicago Cubs after his suspension for violating baseball’s domestic violence policy, calling it “a serious issue.”
Russell received a mostly chilly reception when he started Wednesday against Miami in his first major league game since September. The 25-year-old infielder was optioned to Triple-A Iowa after he completed his 40-game suspension last week, but he returned to the majors when infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist went on the restricted list for undisclosed personal matters.
Russell was the talk of sports radio in Chicago on Friday after he did an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times that made it sound as if he was faulting the fans for booing. But he seemed to walk back his comments before making his second start at second base in the opener of a three-game series against Milwaukee.
"I totally understand. It's a serious issue," Russell said. "What can I do? Get better day by day. That's all I can do. And be the example of a person that's trying to make things right."
Russell was suspended after his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, published a blog post last September describing years of physical and emotional abuse. Without getting into specifics, Russell said in February he was accountable for his past actions and apologized for "the hurt and the pain" he caused.
Reidy has said she supports the Cubs' decision to give Russell another opportunity.
Russell was once considered one of baseball's best young shortstops. He helped Chicago win the World Series three years ago, batting .238 with 21 homers and 95 RBIs in 151 games. The Cubs faced criticism for retaining Russell after his suspension.
Russell said he talks to a therapist "multiple times a week," and one of his goals is to get back the respect of Cubs fans.
"Their reaction to me, I feel like, I have to respect that," he said. "My actions are what they are and I have to be responsible for them."
After this weekend's series against the Brewers, the Cubs begin a six-game road trip Tuesday night in Cincinnati. It will be Russell's first trip since his suspension.
Russell said he understands everything he says is going to be analyzed closely.
"I'm dedicated to this," he said. "Like I said, I'm putting in the good work to face this stuff and talk about it. I think that sometimes it can be a little overbearing, but at times whenever you feel like things are weighing in on you, all you have to do is just be vulnerable and let things come in and you get kind of a nice release from it.