Maddon praises 'consummate pro' Zobrist

Manager says changes infielder made at plate paying off

Maddon praises 'consummate pro' Zobrist

CHICAGO -- Ben Zobrist has been on a roll, and it doesn't surprise Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

"He just takes care of himself so well and he knows himself so well," Maddon said of Zobrist, whom he knows well from their days together with the Rays.

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Zobrist doubled in a run in the first inning in Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Phillies and now has reached safely in his past 33 starts. He is the first Cubs player to do so since Starlin Castro ended the 2011 season having reached in his final 40 starts. Zobrist also now has a 14-game hitting streak, and leads all National League second basemen in RBIs. He began the day leading the NL in on-base percentage.

A switch-hitter, Zobrist has made some changes since his days with the Rays. Maddon said hitting coach John Mallee and Zobrist began their efforts in Spring Training, and it's paying off. In 2007, Zobrist was more of a line-drive, middle-of-the-field hitter. From the left side, he lowered his hands into what Maddon described as a "Stan Musial kind of look" and Zobrist developed more power as a result.

Zobrist's two-run single

"Right-handed, his swing has been the same," Maddon said. "He's more of a choppy, handsy right-handed swinger. Left-handed, its more lengthy and the ball goes farther more consistently. The big difference was when he changed his left-handed swing. That was the last real significant difference and now he's able to handle a wider variety of pitches. The stuff that had been a little bit of his kryptonite no longer is that. I think that's based on the adjustments he's made."

Maddon definitely likes having Zobrist around.

"He's the consummate pro," Maddon said of the versatile player who turned 35 Thursday. "You look at that birth certificate -- he's going to be like this for the next couple years in a good way."

• Several of the veteran players who have joined the Cubs, including Zobrist, have talked about feeling born again. That's to be expected, Maddon said, because of Wrigley Field and all the youth on the team.

"Our young guys are different because they don't act like young guys," Maddon said. "The comportment is not like a young man in a baseball sense. [Our guys] get it, their work ethic is so good, how they interact, the way they attack the day, they don't take anything for granted. They don't get all haughty and proud, they just go out the next day and play. The more veteran guys who have been involved in championships know that's what it takes.

"You have the combination of Wrigley Field, the fan base, this facility and a youthly driven good team, that should bring out the best in all these guys," he said. "For me personally, it's wonderful to come to the ballpark every day. I don't think me or the coaches feel any differently. It's just the place you want to be, man. You want to be here as a professional in Major League Baseball."

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.