Chicago Cubs: Ben Zobrist reminding us he’s still good
After an improbable 14-10 comeback victory over the Atlanta Braves Saturday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs offense hopes to use the confidence from the thriller in games ahead as they try to find some consistency.
Ben Zobrist was one of the steady players in a game that seemed like it was headed to a third-straight losing effort from the Chicago Cubs. Fortunately, the Braves bullpen failed to close the door and the North Siders improved to 7-7 on the young season.
Zobrist went 3-for-3 with two walks in the comeback. He’s been one of the more consistent players to start the season, which may come to a surprise for some after his forgettable 2017 campaign.
In April, the utility player carries a .326/.408/.465 line. If this continues, Joe Maddon will have to keep playing him more than the coaching staff may have thought entering Spring Training.
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Anthony Rizzo is likely to return Monday. So where does that leave Zobrist? Trying to find playing time for Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Albert Almora and Jason Heyward has been tough enough. Coming into the season, it was assumed Zobrist would take a lesser role. He’s earning more playing time with every game he’s played so far.
Depth is a nice problem to have
Happ and Almora have started based on matchups, and it seems that Joe Maddon hasn’t given up on Happ staying in the leadoff role. Schwarber’s bat is important but is a defensive liability any team would deal with. Heyward is the opposite of Schwarber with his Gold Glove defense. But in two years, he’s failed to hit enough to provide offensive value.
It’s likely Zobrist won’t see action at second base either with Javier Baez settling into that role as an everyday player, but the occasional off day will give Zobrist a chance.
It will be interesting to see how Maddon manages this once the season moves into May and June. Right now, he can test different lineups because it’s early and guys are trying to get into their routines.
How long of a leash will Heyward be given though? He’s had some nice moments early on this season, but he’s not only holding Happ and Almora back from playing every day, but Zobrist as well. Heyward’s .791 OPS is not going to cut it long-term.
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The Cubs are lucky to have this play from Zobrist considering their offense has been very inconsistent to this point. Coming into Saturday’s matchup, the Cubs had scored one run the their last 18 innings, after scoring 13 runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.
At 36 years old, Zobrist’s well on his way to proving he can still play at an elite level.