He got the Padres out of a jam on Monday, stranding two runners in the seventh inning in what would become a 3-1 victory over the Nationals.
"We like him. ... I like the strength of the arm, I like the fastball. I like the conversations I've had with him. I like what I'm hearing," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "He's a guy who has some potential to help our bullpen. He's going to continue to get his work.
"He's a guy who might be part of that bullpen."
With Mike Adams, the Padres' designated eighth-inning specialist, sidelined with a strain of the right shoulder, the club would like nothing more than for Russell to pitch well enough to lock down a late-inning spot.
Russell, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, differs from other relievers in the sense that he will show various arm slots depending on what kind of batter he's facing.
"To lefties, I stay mostly over the top with a fastball and curveball and a changeup. To righties, I'll drop down to the side with my fastball and slider and a changeup. It gives hitters a different look," Russell said. "It changes their eye level. From talking to other hitters, it's tough to pick up, a big guy coming from down low.
"It's helped to accelerate my career."
But that doesn't mean it hasn't been met with resistance along the way, as most pitching coaches prefer a pitcher to stick with one arm slot, believing that changing can do more harm than good to a delivery.
"I've been doing it for about two years now. When I was first presented with the idea I was like, 'Oh, one arm angle is tough enough, let alone two,' but I took to it right away. ... It felt pretty natural to me," Russell said. "I'm sure a lot of pitching coaches wondered if I would be able to stay in the strike zone with it. But it's helped me attack the strike zone better."
Black, a former Major League pitcher and pitching coach, isn't about to ask Russell to change anything -- yet. He wants to see a bigger sample size over the final month of the season.
"We're going to continue to talk about that. I think in most cases it's proven to let a guy show what he can do without tinkering too much," Black said. "Before we talk about changing anything, we're going to watch him."