‘Unmanageable’ neck improves, so Cubs’ Ben Zobrist eyes return

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Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist hasn’t played in a week. (AP)

MESA, Ariz. — After missing a week of Cactus League games because of neck soreness, second baseman Ben Zobrist said he thinks he can return to the Cubs’ lineup Monday or Tuesday.

‘‘At the beginning of [last] week, it was unmanageable,’’ Zobrist said Sunday. ‘‘But now I’m out on the field doing stuff [before the game]. So I’ll probably play in the game [Monday]. If not, Tuesday. And I’ll have at least three or four exhibition games before we start the season.’’

Zobrist is confident that will give him enough time to be prepared to start the season. Privately, though, the Cubs wonder whether the condition might linger. If so, that might create early-season starts at second base for Javy Baez.

The Cubs also have been without shortstop Addison Russell since Friday, when he was scratched because of back soreness. Manager Joe Maddon said Russell is ‘‘very close to getting back.’’

‘‘None of this stuff is really threatening, in a sense,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘The trainers have no real strong issues with anything. It’s almost like you’ll be overly cautious right now, and that’s all we’re doing.’’

Zobrist said soft-tissue work, rest and posture improvements have helped his neck in recent days. He called the time away ‘‘precautious.’’

Maddon not worried about Davis

One day after closer Wade Davis allowed four earned runs, two hits and two walks in a third of an inning to send his spring ERA soaring to 19.64, Maddon said he wasn’t concerned. Davis has yielded nine hits and five walks to go with the 11 outs he has recorded.

‘‘You’re not going to believe this, but he’s actually throwing better than he normally does in spring training,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘The biggest problem he’s having right now is command. Velocity looks good. The break on the breaking ball looks good. He’s just not throwing the ball where he wants.’’

When Davis pitched for Maddon with the Rays from 2008 to 2012, mostly as a starter, he topped out around 88 mph during the spring. This year, Maddon said he has reached 95 mph and has had sharp break, too.

‘‘It’s just bad counts and bad command right now,’’ he said. ‘‘If he was physically unable, then I’d be more concerned. I think he looks really good physically right now.’’

What’s next for Butler?

Eddie Butler, the right-hander acquired from the Rockies during the offseason, pitched 4⅔ innings against the Reds in Las Vegas, likely concluding his impressive spring (3.07 ERA, seven strikeouts, three walks in 14⅔ innings).

He said he will understand if the Cubs send him to join the rotation at Class AAA Iowa as starting depth.

‘‘If I end up down there, I’m going to do everything I can to be back up as quick as possible,’’ he said. ‘‘Go out there and dominate as much as I can and continue to show them I should have made the team out of spring.’’

Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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