The Cubs will activate veteran utilityman Ben Zobrist when active rosters expand on Sunday, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com reports on Twitter. That’ll necessitate a 40-man roster move, as Zobrist has been on the restricted list.
Zobrist, 38, has been away from the Chicago organization since early May for personal reasons. He has slowly worked his way back into playing shape and game speed over recent weeks, playing a dozen rehab games while also spending stretches at home. It’s an unusual situation, but one that has unfolded with the blessings of the team.
When he returns, Zobrist will not only be looking to shake off the rust and re-adjust to the grind while entering a full-throated postseason race. He’ll also be looking to bounce back from a brutal stretch of play to open the season. Zobrist reached base at a .343 clip but managed only a single extra-base hit in 99 plate appearances. He hasn’t exactly shredded minor-league pitching on his rehab stint, slashing .189/.333/.405 in 45 trips to the plate.
Despite that tepid recent showing, skipper Joe Maddon says he won’t have any issue plugging Zobrist in at the top of the order. Zobrist surely won’t be thrown back into everyday duties, particularly with so many other mouths to feed in the Cubs position-player mix. But when he is written into the lineup, it makes sense that he’d be utilized at the top. Despite his recent power outage, Zobrist has walked more than he has struck out in his game action this season.
It’s unclear as yet how the Cubs will distribute playing time. David Bote just re-joined the roster. Presumably, Albert Almora and Daniel Descalso will as well in short order. Backstop Willson Contreras isn’t far behind. So long as the 40-man logistics and player expectations can be managed, that ought to leave Maddon with loads of options in any given game.