Rays eager to get Zobrist back in camp

Rays eager to get Zobrist back in camp

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The United States' run in the World Baseball Classic is over, and that means the Rays will welcome back a very important part of their lineup.

Ben Zobrist is expected to be back in camp on Sunday, following the elimination of the U.S. from the tournament -- thanks to a 4-3 Puerto Rico win on Friday night. The Rays are happy to get him back in time to allow him to be ready to go when the regular season gets under way.

"We need to get him back and get him playing," manager Joe Maddon said. "He was so ready when he went, his whole game was so good -- especially on offense. With infrequent at-bats since then, I would think he's going to want to get some more regular at-bats. So we'll get him going when he gets back."

Zobrist appeared in four of the six games played by the United States, totaling 11 at-bats in the two rounds of the Classic and picking up three hits along the way. He started at third base on Friday night against Puerto Rico, replacing the injured David Wright. Zobrist went 0-for-2 with two walks and an RBI. He came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and two outs, with the United States down, 4-2, at the time. Fernando Cabrera walked him to force in a run, but the U.S. couldn't push across the tying run.

With Zobrist returning, that leaves just two Rays still involved in the World Baseball Classic. Fernando Rodney has four saves for the Dominican Republic and Jose Molina has been serving as a backup to his brother Yadier behind the plate for Puerto Rico. He's appeared in two games, going 0-for-3 against the Dominican Republic in Round 1 and subbing at first base with no at-bats on Saturday, also against the Dominicans. Both teams are headed to San Francisco for the semifinals.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow