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Russell was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 26th round (782nd overall) in the 2001 Major League Baseball draft. Opting not to sign, he instead decided to play college ball at Ohio University, where he did so for three years. In 2004, Russell was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 6th round as the 179th overall pick.
At 6'8", Russell is the second tallest player on the White Sox roster. The tallest, Andrew Sisco, is 6'10"
He was called up from the minor leagues on June 13, 2008 to replace the injured Esteban Loaiza on the roster.
Russell earned his first major league win on July 1, 2008 as the White Sox defeated the Cleveland Indians 3-2 in 10 innings.
On July 31, 2009, Russell was traded to the San Diego Padres along with three other plays in exchange for Jake Peavy.