Zobrist back with Cubs after 4-month absence

ByJesse Rogers ESPN logo
Monday, September 2, 2019

CHICAGO -- Ben Zobrist returned to the Chicago Cubson Sunday after a four-month absence to attend to his family after he and his wife initiated divorce proceedings.

"I'm nothing but grateful for how [the Cubs] handled the whole situation," Zobrist said in his first public comments since May. "They've given me the time and space needed to take care of my situation. I'm excited to be back."

Zobrist, 38, abruptly left the Cubs in early May, when he and his wife both filed for divorce. Zobrist indicated Sunday that divorce proceedings are on hold.

When he left, it was unclear whether Zobrist would return to baseball; he's in the final year of a four-year deal with the Cubs.

"I didn't know," Zobrist said. "I didn't know I'd come back at all. ... I would have understood completely if they needed to move forward, even if it was the next day. Baseball has given me nothing but blessings. I'm fortunate they gave me the time that they gave me and still wanted me back."

Zobrist reported late to spring training, and his issues at home were on his mind throughout the early portion of the season, as he compiled a .596 OPS before leaving. He was asked how much he debated taking the team-approved leave of absence.

"It was an easy decision for me," Zobrist said. "Very easy. Because I'm a 100 percent focus type of person. And I knew that at that moment, I couldn't be here and be focused while I was here. I didn't want to give a half effort while I was here. I knew for a period of time I needed to fully put myself back in Nashville, at home with my family, doing everything I could to keep my family together. That was my focus. That was where my heart was at the time. I'm here now because my heart feels that while I'm here, at the field, I can put 100 percent into it."

Zobrist won't start on Sunday or Monday as he gets reacclimated to his surroundings, but there's likely a place for him soon at the top of the Cubs' lineup. The team ranks last in baseball in on-base percentage from the No. 1 spot in the batting order.

"The answer to that is I hope I can fill that role and do it well," Zobrist said. "I know I have in the past, so I have confidence that I can do it. At the same time, you have to catch your rhythm [at the plate]."

Zobrist was in the on-deck circle to pinch hit when Tony Kemp lined to right field for the final out in Sunday's 4-0 loss.

"I think within a week or so he should be back up to total speed,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "But he's very happy to be back also, and I know the guys are really happy to see him.''

Zobrist indicated that he and his wife are trying to mend their relationship as he returns to the game he loves.

"Wrigley Field is a special place," he said. "I don't take it for granted. I'm excited to be back."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.