Russell with the Atlanta Braves
|Toros de Tijuana - No. 31|
|Born: January 8, 1986|
|April 15, 2010, for the Chicago Cubs|
|MLB statistics |
(through 2016 season)
|Earned run average||4.09|
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 and made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut on April 5, 2010. He has also played for the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
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).
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. With Peoria, Russell combined to throw a no-hitter on August 25, 2007.
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. Three days later, he was called up to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. He would pitch most of the season with the Smokies before being sent back down to the Cubs for the playoffs. Combined, Russell went 6–8 with a 5.44 ERA and a 1.453 WHIP in 25 starts made.
Russell began the 2009 season with Tennessee. He eventually converted to being a relief pitcher for the Smokies, instead of being a starter. 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. Following the season, he joined the Mesa Solar Sox, a team in the Arizona Fall League, which largely features players considered top prospects.
In 2010, Russell made the Cubs Opening Day roster after giving up no runs in 11 innings of work during spring training and debuted on opening day, April 5, with two scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves. 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. 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. 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. He finished the season with a 1-1 record, a 4.96 ERA, and a 1.347 WHIP in 57 appearances for the Cubs. 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.
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.
Russell and Emilio Bonifacio were traded to the Atlanta Braves for Víctor Caratini on July 31, 2014. He was released by the Braves during spring training in 2015. Russell was signed to a minor league deal by the Chicago Cubs on April 8, 2015. He went 0-2 with a 5.29 ERA for the Cubs in 2015 before being designated for assignment on September 1, 2015.
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.