Russell hopes to fill void left by Marshall

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
2:30
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- James Russell knows what is at stake now that Sean Marshall is a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

[+] EnlargeJames Russell
Elsa/Getty ImagesJames Russell struggled mightily as a starter but proved to be an effective reliever last season.
Those late-inning opportunities that Marshall flourished in during recent seasons are now up for grabs, and Russell is among the select few who could inherit them.

"Yeah, once we got rid of Sean somebody has to step up and take on his workload," Russell said. "That's kind of what I've been working toward this offseason and what I will work toward this spring."

Heading in to spring training, Russell and veteran newcomer Trever Miller appear in line to face lefties in key situations late in games. Scott Maine and John Gaub would appear to be contenders as well but have longer odds for the role.

Hearing manager Dale Sveum talk about it, he could be leaning toward Miller to face lefties late in games, but would probably let Kerry Wood handle the entire eighth inning to get to closer Carlos Marmol.

"[Miller] knows how to get left-handers out and that's a big asset depending on how your bullpen unfolds during the course of spring training," Sveum said.

Russell still has some work to do if he wants more responsibility.

"Right now he's a matchup guy against lefties," Sveum said. "He's got the ability and the endurance to go two innings. It all depends on what’s going on, the score of the game what they have on the bench and all that. But he’s a guy that can go two innings, there’s no doubt about that."

Russell knows he can’t simply rely on the organization’s familiarity with what he did last season because of all the turnover in the front office and coaching staff.

At first glance, Russell’s numbers (1-6 record and a 4.47 ERA) don’t suggest an excellent season, but throwing out the appearances when he was pressed into service as a starter and all of a sudden his value becomes clear.

Russell lost all five of his starts, posting a 9.33 ERA and a 2.018 WHIP in the process. In 59 relief outings he delivered a 2.19 ERA and a 1.074 WHIP.

"I felt like I did a very good job last year in the bullpen, and I'm hoping to build off that and take the end of the season into this season and keep it going," said the son of former major-leaguer Jeff Russell.

He knows, though that he can’t let the numbers speak for themselves with Miller, Maine and Gaub looking for innings, too. Sveum said that in a perfect world he breaks camp with two left-handers in the bullpen.

"It makes it fun. Friendly competition is always a good thing to have," Marshall said. "It makes you work harder and you kind of focus a little more."

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167