Cubs veteran Ben Zobrist in high spirits in first game at Class A South Bend

Zobrist suited up for the Cubs’ Class A affiliate in South Bend, where team president Theo Epstein said he’ll stay through the weekend.

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Zobrist suited up for the Cubs’ Class A affiliate in South Bend, where team president Theo Epstein said he’ll stay through the weekend.

AP Photos

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Friday marked the first step in a monthlong process for utility player Ben Zobrist to return to the Cubs.

Zobrist suited up for the Cubs’ Class A affiliate in South Bend, where team president Theo Epstein said he’ll stay through the weekend.

Asked how he was feeling after batting practice at Four Winds Field, Zobrist — who didn’t speak with the media before or after South Bend’s 2-1 victory against West Michigan in 11 innings — smiled and gave a thumbs up before heading to the clubhouse.

Playing in his first professional game since taking a personal leave of absence in early May to deal with his pending divorce, Zobrist batted second and served as South Bend’s designated hitter. He finished 0-for-3 with a walk. He flied out in the first and eighth, struck out in the fourth and walked in the sixth.

The game seemed to be as much fun for Zobrist, the 2016 World Series MVP, as it was for the fans in attendance. Before the game, he walked over to the stands near the first-base line and asked security if he could sign autographs. He went on to sign hats, ticket stubs and jerseys and to pose for photos with fans for about 15 minutes before he was cut off.

‘‘They just announced my name,’’ Zobrist said before taking one last selfie with a young fan. ‘‘I think I have to go play.’’

Zobrist also interacted with fans sitting behind home plate when he was on deck.

Zobrist is expected to start at second base and will hit near the top of South Bend’s lineup again Saturday, manager Buddy Bailey said. He likely will be the designated hitter again Sunday.

‘‘A lot depends on how his body feels,’’ Bailey said of Zobrist’s workload for the next two days. ‘‘He wants to get work in, and he’s already asking for it.’’

Here’s what Zobrist did at the plate Friday:

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