Recent talk was that the Cubs were “cautiously optimistic” about Ben Zobrist’s return, but now it sounds like they’re throwing caution to the wind. Speaking to the media ahead of Friday’s game in Milwaukee, Theo Epstein said Zobrist was going to start a rehab assignment soon.
The plan is to have the 38-year-old in minor league games by next weekend, though specifics about what level and how long it will take to ramp up aren’t known. Unless Zobrist has been working out at a really high level, he might need some time in rookie ball before moving to more advance affiliates.
No matter how it shakes out, this is good news on various fronts. Not only could the Cubs potentially get one of their veteran leaders back, but Zobrist’s desire to return means things are better on the home front. Maybe being in a better emotional space will help with the tall task of making it back to the majors, which probably won’t happen until September 1 roster expansions.
For those who may be wondering, yes, Zobrist would still be eligible for the postseason even if he’s wasn’t activated from the restricted list prior to September.
Any player who is on the 40-man roster or 60-day injured list as of 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 31 is eligible for the postseason.
Those on the restricted list at that point are also eligible if they haven’t been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs during that season.
It’s not very likely that Zo can be the player he was in 2016 or last season, but it wouldn’t be the first time a Cubs player has come back strong after a long time away.