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Zobrist dusts off first-base mitt for rare start

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Ben Zobrist made his first start at first base since 2010 on Tuesday, filling in for Anthony Rizzo, who was placed on the disabled list because of back problems. Did Rizzo have any advice for Zobrist?

"Catch the ball," Rizzo said Tuesday. "I tell everyone, 'That's your job over there. Just catch it.' I tell that to every kid who asks me what you should do at first, 'Catch the ball.'"

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CHICAGO -- Ben Zobrist made his first start at first base since 2010 on Tuesday, filling in for Anthony Rizzo, who was placed on the disabled list because of back problems. Did Rizzo have any advice for Zobrist?

"Catch the ball," Rizzo said Tuesday. "I tell everyone, 'That's your job over there. Just catch it.' I tell that to every kid who asks me what you should do at first, 'Catch the ball.'"

View Full Game Coverage

Zobrist worked out at first base in Spring Training, but Victor Caratini played there in the three games that Rizzo has missed. Tuesday was Zobrist's first start there since Sept. 23, 2010, when he played for the Rays against the Yankees.

"I'll have to be ready," Zobrist said. "I'm sure [the Pirates] are aware I haven't played there that often, too. I have to be ready for everything.

"Rizzo's been doing it for so long, it's second nature and he doesn't have to think about any of that," Zobrist said. "I think Vic did a phenomenal job the last few days in Milwaukee. He made it look like he's been there a lot. That's my goal -- to try to make it seamless."

The Cubs did call up first baseman Efren Navarro from Triple-A Iowa to take Rizzo's spot on the roster. Navarro notched a pinch-hit infield single in the fifth inning in his first at-bat with the Cubs.

Video: PIT@CHC: Juliana Zobrist sings God Bless America

• Zobrist's wife, Julianna, sang "God Bless America" prior to Tuesday's game.

"We just enjoy the experience," Ben said. "I don't get nervous, but I get excited that we get to do that together."

• Cubs shortstop Addison Russell spent a lot of time with infield coach Brian Butterfield working on shortening his throwing motion. Manager Joe Maddon said he can see the difference.

"I think he looks great," Maddon said of Russell. "I've always loved his mechanics, but I think what they've figured out is how to get the most out of his arm. And with that is the confidence -- he's throwing with a ton of confidence right now. Beyond just better footwork coming through the baseball, the confidence factor is adding to that factor, too. You're seeing Addy at his best at shortstop."

• Maddon got his first look at the new, wider dugouts at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. They are about 28 feet further down the line, which will give him a slightly different view -- he's now lined up more with third base. Maddon said he can tell he'll have a different perspective of balls and strikes from his new perch.

"It's different where we're at," Maddon said. "There are design things about it that we might be able to alter to make it function."

For example, the Cubs may ask to have one of the hand rails moved to provide a better sight line.

One thing that's different is Maddon is much closer to third-base coach Butterfield, who had to turn his head awkwardly to get the signs.

"I'm going to go verbal [with the signs], I think," Maddon said. "Either that or just throw sunflower seeds -- one seed, bunt, two seeds, hit and run, he's that close."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs