The last two weeks have been full of change for Addison Russell, but Thursday night, the shortstop seemed like his old self.
The Cubs' No. 3 prospect hit his first home run since the July 5 trade that sent him to the Chicago organization as Double-A Tennessee used the long ball to down Huntsville, 4-1.
"Going into this, I didn't really know what to expect," Russell said. "It was the first time I'd been traded obviously, and I wanted to go in there and not really panic. I knew I was going to face some adversity. I think everyone does whenever they go through a trade at some point. I just took myself back and reflected on what kind of player that I am. I have to trust what kind of player that I am and the talent that I'm surrounded by too."
With his team trailing by a run entering the fourth inning, Russell sparked the Smokies by turning on a 2-0 pitch from Stars starter Jacob Barnes and hammering it to left field for a solo home run.
"He started me out with a fastball away and then he threw a curveball high," Russell said. "My mind-set was just to get something and dial in the zone. He gave me my pitch and I took advantage of it."
In the sixth with Russell aboard following a two-out single, No. 6 Cubs prospect Jorge Soler connected on a two-run homer to left to seize the lead. No. 13 Christian Villanueva joined the action in the ninth with a two-out solo shot.
Russell missed over two months with a torn hamstring suffered on the second day of the season, but had hit in eight straight games for Double-A Midland when he was made part of the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland. The 20-year-old has base hits in three of his last four games and has lifted his average to .229 with Tennessee.
"I felt like I knew a lot of people in the Oakland A's organization," he said, "and now I get the opportunity to get to know everyone in the Cubs organization as well. Overall, I think it was [the biggest change] just being surrounded by a whole new ballclub, a different state, a different league and also a different team. They do things a little bit different than what I was used to at Oakland. That's fine. I'll get used to it."
Now the former top Oakland prospect finds himself on a loaded Double-A roster that includes five of MLB.com's Top 20 Cubs prospects. Thursday's starter Corey Black (5-6), Chicago's No. 17, allowed a run on four hits and two walks while striking out eight over six innings.
"When you're around talent like that, it can only make you better," Russell said. "You see what they're doing, and as an athlete, you make sure to be a little bit competitive. I try to match them or one-up them. It's a great thing. I think managers, no matter what kind of ball they're playing, they want to see their young guys perform at the best of their abilities."
Frank Batista pitched around a walk in the ninth to pick up his fifth save.
Barnes (2-4) outlasted Black but took the loss, allowing three runs on four hits while walking two and striking out two in seven innings.