Ben Zobrist is grateful to the Cubs for their patience and is excited to be back with his teammates.
But what he experienced Sunday wasn’t always a given.
“I didn’t know if I’d come back at all, just because [I’m] not sure how much baseball I’m going to be playing anyway,” Zobrist said before the Cubs’ 4-0 loss to the Brewers. “The timing is right for me to be here now, and I feel good about that. I feel good about just doing what I can to help the club down the stretch here and hopefully push into the playoffs and then a lot further.”
Zobrist, 38, was placed on the restricted list May 8 to deal with marital issues and tend to his family. After returning to the active roster Saturday night, Zobrist didn’t play Sunday, though he ended the game in the on-deck circle when Tony Kemp flied out.
“I want to ease him into this whole thing,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Within a week or so he should be back up to total speed. But he’s very happy to be back also. I know the guys are really happy to see him also. We also know what he can do for us.”
When he’s right, Zobrist can do plenty.
“He’s great,” Javy Baez said. “During the season when he [was not] here, we talked about him being here and what he brings to the team.”
Zobrist said in around mid-July he realized it was time to decide whether he’d try to come back. Then when he started doing baseball work, Zobrist saw he wasn’t too far away and figured he could help in September if he went through proper rehab.
Following his tour of the farm system, Zobrist is back and feels he can focus enough on baseball to contribute. That said, it’s clear how difficult this experience has been.
“You don’t plan for struggles or anything like that, but there’s no perfect family. In life there’s no perfect scenario, but I’m fortunate that I’m not alone,” Zobrist said. “I have so much support and I’ve got . . . my faith, I believe in a God who heals broken relationships. So I’m hopeful and I’m present and I’m doing the best I can to just love the people that I’m around.”
Maddon stressed how well he thought the Cubs handled Zobrist’s situation.
“We play a game. It’s about Zo and his family and his kids and him,” Maddon said. “The way we handled it is perfectly right, and I’d like to believe we would permit that latitude to other people, too, if in fact the person demonstrates that kind of feelings. He’s the one that precipitated [it], regarding how he felt and what he wanted to do, and I think it was perfect.”
With Sunday done, Zobrist has more hurdles. There will be the standing ovations whenever he enters a game, the first at-bats against big-league pitching since May, and even his choice of walk-up song will be discussed since it had been performed by Julianna Zobrist.
One hurdle Zobrist doesn’t have to clear is proving anything to anybody. Zobrist was held in high regard, and that hasn’t changed.
He feels good that he took the time he did, and is trying to finish the season strong.
“They don’t owe me anything and I don’t feel like I owe the game anything at this point,” Zobrist said. “I’m excited to come back and do what I can to get this team where I believe it can be.”