ARLINGTON -- Rays manager Joe Maddon recently complimented the fielding prowess of his group of outfielders, which led to further comments about Ben Zobrist's play. "I just think Zo is one of the most fundamentally sound outfielders in the game, period," Maddon said. "I know he's not out there all the time, but if you watch him -- how he gets the balls, how he gets rid of balls and how well he throws, how quickly he dumps it, his positioning -- everything he does out there is textbook. And that's the thing I really appreciate about him being out there." Maddon said the fact that Zobrist did not play the outfield until he reached the Major Leagues is a testament to how sound he played other positions.
"I think, based on where he was trained -- in the infield, the footwork involved -- and you know Zo, he's going to listen and then he's going to try to apply everything you asked him to apply," Maddon said. "So I think that's a big part of it, too, his ability to process information and go ahead and do something with it. Because he really is fundamentally [sound]. If you want to make a video in regards to fundamentally how to [play the outfield], I would put him on it, right at the very top." Zobrist has not committed an error in 253 career games (449 chances) in the outfield. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most errorless games in the outfield to start a Major League career since Darren Lewis played 392 errorless games from 1990-94 with Oakland and San Francisco. "Zo, his feet are so good," Maddon said. "There's a lot of times you can watch a guy who's been playing outfield for 10 years and his feet are not right when he goes to catch a ground ball and get into a position to throw. "It drives me crazy to watch a guy who plays that long have poor foot work when he throws. [Zobrist's] footwork is perfect when he throws from the outfield. And that's why he throws it straight and on line and has something on it." Zobrist isn't exactly sure what allowed him to catch on to playing the outfield so quickly. "I guess some of it just came natural," Zobrist said. "Some of it was stuff we talked about during Spring Training. [Outfield coach George Hendrick] talks to all of us. But when it comes down to it, you track the ball, you catch it, you throw it to the nearest guy. So you try to keep it simple. "For me, if I'm fundamentally good in the infield, when I go out to the outfield I'm going to do the same things. I'm just going to set my feet underneath me, make good throws, use my feet well." Zobrist believes the tracking skills and the routes he runs in the outfield are both instinctive and learned. "When you play around as a kid in the yard, you're throwing a ball and seeing if you can catch it," Zobrist said. "My dad threw the football. We'd run routes, and I played a little bit in high school as well. So, yeah, it's just kind of seeing a ball go up in the air and you run to where you think it's going to land."