Theo Epstein provides update on Ben Zobrist's potential return

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by - Senior Writer -
According to Theo Epstein, Ben Zobrist is expected to return to the Cubs at some point this season. (Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
According to Theo Epstein, Ben Zobrist is expected to return to the Cubs at some point this season. (Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Veteran Chicago Cubs utility player Ben Zobrist has not suited up for the North Siders since early May, as he has been away from the team while working through a difficult divorce from his wife, Julianna. Zobrist is currently on the restricted list, which means that he is on leave without pay. With that being said, the 38-year-old jack-of-all-trades could certainly kickstart a Cubs offense that has been fairly dormant since Memorial Day, leading to plenty of scrutiny regarding when he could potentially return to the club.

Cubs beat writer Jesse Rogers of ESPN reported last month that one of his anonymous sources indicated that Zobrist could very well remain away from the team until the rosters expand to 40 players at the start of September. That scenario is definitely realistic, as Zobrist, who is set to be a free agent following the 2019 season, might take part in one last playoff run for the organization that he won World Series MVP with in 2016.

Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Gordon Wittenmyer last week that he expects Zobrist "back later this year." That marked the first time that Epstein provided a direct expectation regarding Zobrist's return, as he had previously been fairly noncommittal when discussing Zobrist potentially returning at some point this season.

"We expect him back later this year," Epstein said. "We have sort of a soft understanding of when that might be, but I don't want to put a timetable on it or overly rely on it, either. I think we're all looking forward to having him back, if that's able to happen."

The Cubs have admirably allowed Zobrist extended personal leave in order to allow him all of the time that he needs to deal with his divorce and focus on his personal situation. The widely accepted sentiment is that, since his salary is effectively null and void while he is on the restricted list, Zobrist can stay away from baseball for as long as he likes, which could possibly mean that he remains out for the rest of the 2019 slate. However, Zobrist must be readying himself for a return, as Epstein is confident that he will play again before the season's end.

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