What’s Causing James Russell’s Slump?

Many pitchers experience a dead-arm period twice per year. It happens most often during spring training and then typically late in the season.

I’ve been thinking James Russell might be suffering through a dead-arm spat, especially after the 26-year-old lefty was slapped around by the Reds at Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon.

On in relief of Travis Wood, Russell squandered a 2-1 lead by allowing three earned-runs on five hits, none of which were of the cheap variety.

The Reds tattooed Russell with three doubles and two singles. And had it not been for an inexplicable, bone-headed base running mistake by Ryan Ludwick (doubled up at second base on a routine fly out to Soriano) the damage most likely would’ve been worse.

WOULD THE REAL JAMES RUSSELL PLEASE STAND UP

Entering Monday’s game against Houston, Russell had allowed four runs on eight hits over his last three outings–a far cry from the pitcher who had held the opponent scoreless in 42 of his previous 54 appearances.

Russell fared far better Monday in his one inning of work retiring three Houston batters in order. Tyler Greene, however, nearly took Russell yard missing a HR by just a few feet in left center field–Brett Jackson caught the ball with his back at the ivy.

WHAT’S THE ISSUE?

If it’s not dead-arm syndrome Russell is battling it may be the heavy workload that’s catching up with him.

He’s easily on course to surpass his career totals in appearances and innings pitched–and there’s still eight weeks left in the season.

His recent struggles, however, shouldn’t diminish what’s been a very successful campaign to date. Russell (5-1, 3.52 ERA) has been a rock in Dale Sveum’s bullpen, and all signs continue to show he’ll become even better down the road.

That said, I’ll remain very interested to see how Russell performs in the season’s final weeks. He hasn’t pitched like his usual self lately and I’m suspicious something’s up.

I’ve got my fingers crossed it’s nothing more than, perhaps, a dead-arm period or natural fatigue setting in during the dog days of August.

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