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For Zobrist, timing is everything

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- It's taken Ben Zobrist longer than he'd like to get his timing, as his season has been interrupted by injuries, including a sore wrist, which is difficult for any hitter to overcome. That's why Tuesday night's home run felt so good for the veteran, who smacked a leadoff shot in the sixth inning of the Cubs' 4-1 win over the Pirates.

"It felt great," Zobrist said of his homer, No. 10 for the season and his first at Wrigley Field since June 11. "I've been driving the ball more the last week or so. It wasn't cheap either -- drive the ball to the middle part of the field and hope that something good happens. Everything felt really good on that.

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CHICAGO -- It's taken Ben Zobrist longer than he'd like to get his timing, as his season has been interrupted by injuries, including a sore wrist, which is difficult for any hitter to overcome. That's why Tuesday night's home run felt so good for the veteran, who smacked a leadoff shot in the sixth inning of the Cubs' 4-1 win over the Pirates.

"It felt great," Zobrist said of his homer, No. 10 for the season and his first at Wrigley Field since June 11. "I've been driving the ball more the last week or so. It wasn't cheap either -- drive the ball to the middle part of the field and hope that something good happens. Everything felt really good on that.

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"It just felt more like me when my hands are working and everything is working the way it normally does. It's been difficult to get to that place after my wrist injury. I feel like I'm getting closer."

Zobrist was sidelined from June 16 to July 1 because of the wrist, and batted .208 in 21 games in July. So far in August, he's hitting .278 in 24 games.

What's changed, though, is regular playing time. With Addison Russell sidelined and Tommy La Stella playing well, manager Joe Maddon has been using different lineups that often don't include Zobrist.

"Timing-wise, [lack of regular playing time] makes it more difficult, but that would be an excuse," Zobrist said. "I'm not going to use that. It's more about getting comfortable. I've had more than 300 at-bats. I've got to get comfortable at some point.

"I think as long as I keep making strides and keep working and grinding, I'm hoping the best is ahead of me in the season. That [home run] felt a lot more like the kind of swing I'm capable of putting on the ball. It's just been very difficult to get to that place with my hands until more recently."

Zobrist hasn't talked to Maddon about how playing time will be sorted out once Russell returns from the disabled list. Javier Baez has subbed for Russell and was batting .295 in August. Baez could play second, which may move Zobrist to the outfield.

"When Addy comes back, who knows what's going to happen," Zobrist said.

He feels his best is still to come, and the Cubs will need all the help they can get if they want to play deep into October.

"I know I'm capable of a lot more offensively than I've done," Zobrist said. "If we can play well the last month of the season and get into the playoffs, everything that's happened up to that point, it's [not as important as] what's going to happen in October. That's what I'm thinking about now."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Ben Zobrist