© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

03/31/08 7:00 PM ET

Zobrist's return to Rays likely delayed

Bum thumb may keep infielder from rejoining team April 5

BALTIMORE -- Ben Zobrist is not likely to rejoin the team once he is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 5.

Zobrist was the favorite to be the Rays' utility infielder until he suffered a fractured left thumb on March 9. Since that time he has stayed in shape as best he could without the use of his thumb, but he has not been able to take batting practice or catch the ball in his glove hand.

Zobrist was scheduled to go to the doctor Monday to see when he could start hitting, but prior to Monday's game, Rays manager Joe Maddon had no report on what news Zobrist received from the doctor. Maddon did say that once Zobrist was cleared to take batting practice, he needed at least a week to get ready.

"I would want him to play some," Maddon said.

If all goes well, Zobrist will likely join one of the Rays' Minor League teams for several games before rejoining the team when they play the Mariners in the season's first home series.

Elliot Johnson is serving as the Rays' utility infielder in Zobrist's absence.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.