CHICAGO -- Cubs veteran Ben Zobrist is finally returning to baseball after leaving the team for personal reasons in May.
Zobrist, 38, will join Class A South Bend on Friday, beginning a monthlong rehab process before returning to the big league team.
"The plan is for him to play rehab games on and off for the month of August," Cubs president Theo Epstein said Friday morning. "I don't think he'll play straight through. He's going to take some time off in between these stints to continue to get his body in shape and continue to practice. He's not going to come back as an everyday player, anyway, so it makes sense to get him ready this way."
Shortly after he left the team, and was placed on the restricted list, Zobrist and his wife filed for divorce. Epstein says he's been keeping in shape while attending to his family over the past several months.
"He's not going to come back and embarrass himself," Epstein said. "If he can't get to the point where he feels like he can play this game at a high level, we'll go in a different direction. But we're full speed ahead, trusting the person."
Zobrist has been a key member of the Cubs' four consecutive playoff seasons, hitting .300 for the first time in his career in 2018. He was the 2016 World Series MVP after signing a 4-year, $56 million deal with the team.
The Cubs have missed his presence both in the clubhouse and at the top of the batting order, where their leadoff hitters rank last in on-base percentage in the National League.
"I don't know," Epstein said when asked how much he expected from Zobrist. "All I keep falling back on is that I trust the person. He would not be attempting to come back if he didn't think he could play at a high level."
At some point, Zobrist will make his way to Triple-A Iowa to complete his rehab. For now, however, he's taking things a few days at a time.
"It's what's best for him and his personal situation combined with the baseball situation," Epstein said.