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World Series MVP Zobrist to get more rest in three-peat effort

MESA, Ariz. — Having trouble remembering who, among all those postseason heroes for the Cubs, wound up as the World Series MVP?

Just look for the gray Camaro convertible — 50th anniversary vintage — cruising the streets of Mesa and Tempe.

That’s Ben Zobrist behind the wheel, still getting used to his new ride, courtesy of becoming the first Cub to win a World Series MVP award.

They didn’t even have Chevys in 1908, much less the award, the last time the Cubs won it all.

Ben Zobrist (center) during an offseason trip to Walt Disney World.

That’s a big part of why it took him so long to collect his prize. He was overwhelmed since Game 7 by dates with Jimmy Fallon and Disney World; a key-to-the-city celebration in his hometown, Eureka, Illinois; Bulls games in Chicago; grand marshalling a holiday parade in Franklin, Tennessee; the White House visit with then-President Barack Obama; a prayer breakfast with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence; and countless emotional fan encounters

“The list goes on,” he said of all the “surreal” moments he had between making American sports history in November and finally shaking loose a few weeks ago to get his new car.

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It’s no wonder manager Joe Maddon brought up rest for the infield’s elder statesman in their annual individual meeting Sunday.

“I brought that up specifically,” Maddon said. “And he understands. Even in spring training, maybe throw a couple more DH days at him as opposed to just running him out there on the field, just to continually help him maintain his body during the course of the season. He understands how important that is.”

Zobrist, 35, was an All-Star starter who played 147 games last year, with all but a few of the days off scheduled, Zobrist said.

“I don’t know what the number’s going to look like [this year],” he said. “You’ve got to stay healthy. We’ll play it by ear.”

With the emergence of infielder Javy Baez last year as a defensive force, particularly at second base, the Cubs figure to open the season with essentially nine starters for eight positions.

So the versatility of Baez and Zobrist — who can play the corner outfield spots well — will come into play, along with the flexibility to rest starters as needed for what the Cubs plan to be another seven-month season.

“We’re going to continue to talk about it,” said Maddon, who has tabbed Zobrist his primary second baseman again, even after starting Baez at second in all 17 postseason games last fall.

Zobrist said he feels good physically — “We’ll see once we get out there” — but he figures it might be a slow build to game shape for a lot of players after the short offseason.

The hardest part might involve putting all those once-in-a-lifetime, “surreal” memories from last fall in the rearview mirror of his Camaro.

“I know what happened last year is pretty unforgettable, but at the same time, we’ve got to turn the page and try to do something even more special,” said Zobrist, who’s working on his third consecutive championship after winning with the Royals in 2015. “I think it’s even harder to try to do it the second time.”

Notes: The four returning starting pitchers from the World Series won’t make any Cactus League starts until the second week of games, much like last spring, Joe Maddon said. Fifth-starter candidates Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson, on the other hand, will pitch from the outset.

 Maddon said he and his staff haven’t yet discussed who will be the Opening Day starter. Jon Lester, who won 19 games and was a Cy Young finalist, seems to be the favorite.