The Chicago Cubs are slowly but surely getting some of their most important players back on the field, and it sounds like infielder Ben Zobrist could be set to return to the squad this weekend.
Zobrist, who has been on the restricted list since May after filing for divorce from his wife Julianna, is expected to rejoin the team on Sunday when they take on the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s unclear whether Zobrist will jump right back into the lineup, and manager Joe Maddon indicated that he will take things slowly with the veteran infielder.
“It’ll be a slower break-in,” Maddon said. “He’ll let me know exactly where he’s at, and we’ll try to make our best guesses after that.”
Zobrist played 12 minor league games this month to prepare for his return, collecting seven hits in 45 plate appearances. He also drew eight walks and clubbed two home runs in a series of stops throughout the Cubs’ minor league system.
According to MLB rules, Zobrist will be eligible for postseason play despite not being on the team’s active roster on Aug. 31, as players on the restricted list can play postseason baseball as long as they’re not suspended for performance enhancing drugs.
The Cubs will need to add Zobrist to the 40-man roster before he can return to the team, and they will need to make a corresponding roster move, as that roster is currently full.
Zobrist’s departure caused plenty of waves when it was announced in May, but Maddon says that the players and front office will continue to support the infielder when he returns.
“I’m going to trust Zo in that moment,” he said. “I mean how can you not? I don’t think the players are going to be as impacted just because of who he is, and how he comports himself. We’ll support him. I have so much faith in how he will handle the whole thing.”
Zobrist is one of several Cubs expected to return to the fold soon. Cole Hamels is back from the paternity list, and catcher Willson Contreras is ready for a rehab assignment as he comes back from a hamstring issue.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo remains out of action with a back injury.
Zobrist has not spoken to media since he left the team earlier this year, but is expected to address reporters when he’s activated from the restricted list.
Zobrist accused his wife Julianna of “inappropriate marital conduct” in a court filing in Tennessee, seeking legal separation as a result. Julianna filed for divorce in Cook County on the same day, but did not give a reason for the filing.