Maturing Zobrist playing with youthful vigor

Maturing Zobrist playing with youthful vigor

ST. LOUIS -- Second baseman Ben Zobrist celebrates his 35th birthday on Thursday, but he's playing as if he's 25.

Zobrist notched his fifth three-hit game of the season on Monday in the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Cardinals. He's reached safely in each of his last 29 starts, and has hit safely in 30 of 40 games.

"It's probably the best [stretch] I've ever had, to be honest," said Zobrist, who is batting .338 overall. "I've had some good stretches where I got a lot of hits, but as far as feeling comfortable, seeing the ball, putting good swings on the ball, this is probably the best it's been for any three-, four-week stretch of time.

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"You ride it out as long as you can and try to have quality at-bats, and that's what everyone in here is doing," he said. "Somebody will be hot soon, and we're going to work our way out of this."

Manager Joe Maddon has been watching Zobrist's ups and downs since the two were together with Tampa Bay from 2006 to 2014.

"Watch when he takes a pitch," Maddon said. "I really believe when an umpire calls a strike and he takes it, it probably was a ball. He's seeing the ball that well. He's not chasing out of the zone, he's making them come to him, and this is both sides of the plate.

"He looks like what you want all your hitters to look like, attacking the pitches in the zone, laying off [bad ones]. It's really been incredible to watch."

Reminded that Zobrist will celebrate a birthday on Thursday, Maddon smiled.

"The man takes care of himself as well as anybody in that room," Maddon said. "That's why he's playing at this level, and he should make the All-Star Game, too."

Zobrist leads all National League second basemen in on-base percentage (.448) and is in the top three in batting average and RBIs (29). Does he have access to a fountain of youth?

"It's a matter of just continuing to grow and mature as a hitter," Zobrist said. "You've got to keep doing that no matter how old you are. You've never arrived in this game. I'll do the best I can to keep having quality at-bats, and we'll work together as a team to get more wins."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.