Every team in baseball has to have an All-Star representative. But when every Rays fan thought about who their team’s representative was going to be, Ben Zobrist was the last player to come to mind. Evan Longoria has suffered through some injury issues but been great (.292/.370/.531, 17 homers, 49 RBI), James Loney has been a revelation as well (.320/.373/.478, 9 homers, 43 RBI), and on the pitching side, Matt Moore has overcome a little inconsistency to be great overall (12-3, 3.42 ERA, 8.8 K/9) and Alex Cobb was outstanding before getting hurt (6-2, 3.01 ERA, 76-23 K-BB). But Zobrist? Zobrist hasn’t been terrible but has not been at his finest either, managing a .264/.352/.379 line with 20 doubles, 5 homers, 44 RBI, and 6 stolen bases in 7 attempts in 84 games and 372 plate appearances. But similar to his inclusion on the US team for the World Baseball Classic, combining his solid play with his tremendous versatility and switch-hitting made him too good for Tigers manager Jim Leyland to pass up.
“I think Ben Zobrist is a very, very, very good player,” Leyland said in Cleveland. “He happens to be able to play everywhere, and he’s a switch-hitter.”
Zobrist was surprised to hear his name called, but he is honored to be selected and looks forward to do what he can to help the American League win–and hopefully give the Rays homefield advantage in the World Series.
“I was shocked. I was really puzzled as to why I was coming into the principal’s office before the game,” Zobrist said in quotes distributed by the Rays. “When they showed me the envelope and said that Leyland had selected me as one of the guys to come off the bench possibly, it’s a huge honor.
“I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily played the way I’m capable of playing up to this point, but obviously I still feel like I can help the club win. And hopefully if we win that game, we could possibly make it to the World Series, and that would give us homefield advantage. It’s an important game still. I look forward to being there and seeing what I can do.”
Congrats to Zobrist on his second selection and first since 2009, and strangely as it sounds, hopefully the All-Star Game can help spur Zobrist to play the way he’s capable in the second half.
It could be a long journey for Alex Cobb to get back on a major league mound after the scary injury that put derailed his season right as he was pitching his best. Luckily, though, the journey has already begun. For the first time since the line drive, Cobb pitched off a mound on Friday afternoon, throwing 29 pitches including sinkers, split-changes, and curveballs. Cobb said that it was a “great feeling” to be back out there, and that he’s “moving a lot faster than expected.” But Cobb’s recovery from this injury won’t follow nearly the normal path.
Cobb said he still is dealing with vertigo when he tilts his head a certain way, but doctors told him he should see drastic improvement over the next couple of weeks. He has passed his first set of concussion-related tests. He said he has heard it’s very difficult to get cleared by Major League Baseball for the second set. In the meantime, Cobb is trying to keep in game shape for when he can complete the tests and begin a minor-league rehabilitation stint.
The Rays can’t take anything for granted for Cobb after this injury. You hope the vertigo goes away soon, but you wait until it’s completely gone. Cobb may feel good physically, but there have been previous cases where players coming off concussions were physically fine but couldn’t handle the noise of crowds. But no matter what the next few weeks will hold, it’s great to see Cobb making progress, and it would be a major positive for the Rays if he returns before the season ends.