ATLANTA — Ben Zobrist had a big box of new shoes waiting for him at his locker in the SunTrust Park visitors’ clubhouse Wednesday afternoon.
No, they’re not black, he said. “I think they’re actually white.”
Not that easily.
RELATED STORIES Starts and fits: How big is Tyler Chatwood’s promising start for Cubs’ rotation? Cubs’ Ben Zobrist ‘optimistic’ MLB will make right call about shoe issue
But after conversations Wednesday with Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre and a players’ union official, the Cubs’ infamous shoe scofflaw is confident that MLB’s shoe-color controversy could be resolved within weeks.
“I’m optimistic that the conversation’s going to be had very quickly, and we’ll have probably a better solution for everybody soon,” said Zobrist, one of a handful of players threatened last week with fines for uniform violations.
Zobrist was among the group hit for shoe-color infractions — Zobrist for throwback, all-black shoes he has worn in recent years during Cubs’ home day games. At least 51 percent of the shoe must be blue to comply.
MLB has said the rule already was being discussed for possible changes.
Zobrist said he expects officials from both sides to rewrite the rule to allow more freedom in their shoe styles, possibly giving individual teams a voice when it comes to their own players.
“So it sounds like everybody’s on the same page in regard to wanting this to happen,” he said. “But I think obviously there’s red tape and there’s structure that we have to write into place to make it possible.”
It would be a rare case of going into an existing collective-bargaining agreement to rewrite a rule.
As long as the sides are working on the issue, Zobrist anticipates MLB will suspend enforcement actions, and he plans to wear his all-black shoes during the next homestand, he said.
What isn’t being discussed are the non-uniform-color sleeves some players like to wear, such as Cubs catcher Willson Contreras’ sleeve replicating the Venezuelan flag. He has not worn it since getting a letter warning him he could be fined.
Right fielder Jason Heyward took another step Wednesday toward a possible return this weekend in Cincinnati from the seven-day concussion disabled list.
Heyward, who was hurt May 6 when he hit his head on the wall trying to catch Dexter Fowler’s walk-off home run, worked out on the field under the supervision of trainers again Wednesday.
“Everything went well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There’s some more protocol to go through, so that’s the next step. But he had a good day. There’s still this red-tape stuff to go through doctor-wise, and that’s what we’re waiting on right now.”
The Cubs won’t make the call until they see what their bullpen needs are the next two games, but Maddon confirmed that he considers Mike Montgomery stretched out enough to make one of the starts in Saturday’s doubleheader in Cincinnati.
Montgomery pitched one inning Sunday and two on Tuesday. “If you’re just talking about being able to pitch four or five innings, he can do that, absolutely,” Maddon said. “I don’t anticipate having to use him again [before Saturday], but if I did and it mattered we would, and then we’d make the adjustment.”
That backup plan likely would mean a major-league debut for top prospect Adbert Alzolay.