Zobrist Could Hit Leadoff When He Returns To Cubs

After a long leave of absence, Ben Zobrist is set to rejoin the Cubs on Sunday.

Bruce Levine
August 30, 2019 - 12:08 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- After a long personal leave of absence, veteran utilityman Ben Zobrist is set to rejoin the Cubs on Sunday when the rosters expand with the arrival of September.

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"I am sure he will handle things really well," manager Joe Maddon said. "I have so much faith in how he will handle the whole thing. I am sure he will talk, and it will be over with."

Zobrist, 38, stepped away from the Cubs in early May as he went through divorce proceedings. How productive he can be in his return is a question. 

Zobrist has hit .189 (7-of-37) with a .739 OPS in 12 games in his minor league rehab assignment throughout August. He struggled earlier this season before stepping away, hitting .241 with a .596 OPS and just one extra-base hit in 83 at-bats for the Cubs.

"We will probably give him a slower break-in," Maddon said. "We don't want to give him too much too soon. When we have a conversation, he will let me know exactly where he is at. We will not want to throw him into the fire in consecutive days."

Zobrist will be a part of the Cubs' leadoff man rotation over the final 27 games of the regular season, Maddon said. That spot has been a black hole for the Cubs once again this season, as they've received a .205 batting average and ugly .282 on-base percentage there. Maddon has used 10 different players in the leadoff spot.

Outfielder Jason Heyward has been the primary leadoff hitter since late July, but that will change when Zobrist returns. Heyward has performed poorly at leadoff, hitting .156 with a .254 on-base percentage there.

"I trust Zo in moments like that," Maddon said Zobrist balancing the responsibility of playing and also addressing his teammates and the media. "I am sure he is going to handle coming back really, really well. I don't think the players will be that impacted because of the way he is and how he comports himself. They will be there to support him."

Maddon has no reservations about plugging Zobrist in at the key leadoff spot right away in a playoff race even after Zobrist had nearly four months off.

"I am not worried about that," Maddon said. "He will have good at-bats. He will get his walks. He will always set a great example."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.