Rays’ Zobrist ‘can’t imagine anything being broke up’

ST. PETERSBURG — With David Price standing in the local and national spotlight prior to Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, Ben Zobrist has almost flown under the radar.

But he’s been the subject of many trade rumors, and he’s shown lately why he’s such an interesting target.

Zobrist hit a game-tying homer and a go-ahead double in the Rays’ 5-1 win over the Brewers on Tuesday, improving Tampa Bay’s record to 53-54. The Rays were 24-42 through June 10, and they’re a win Wednesday away from being the fourth team in Major League history to fall to 18 games below .500 and return to that mark.

Nobody’s ever overcome that deficit and reached the postseason. The Rays believe they can. While everyone’s been talking about how the Rays are playing to keep Price, manager Joe Maddon insists their goal is even loftier.

“Yeah, we’re playing for the World Series. That’s our objective. It’s been from Day 1. For me, it’s to get to the playoffs and to win the World Series,” Maddon said. “I’m telling you, we’re one of the best teams in the American League. Our record is not reflecting it yet, but if we keep playing like this, it soon shall. There’s a lot of time left.”

But is there a lot of time left for players like Price and Zobrist? Price is slated to start Wednesday’s 12:10 p.m. ET game, unsure where he’ll make the start after that but ready for an answer.

CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that the Rays are “talking and willing” to deal Price despite the Rays winning 11 of their last 12 and 29 of 41 since June 11. It makes sense: If Tampa Bay was willing to consider trading Price this offseason — when they were zero games out of any race — why not do so now when the odds aren’t as favorable?

“This is the team we are. We knew that this was the team we could be in Spring Training. It just took a long time for it to show up,” Zobrist said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to return to the way we were playing prior to June 11.”

Back to Zobrist. He’s hitting .344/.440/.563 (33-for-96) with four homers and 15 RBIs since June 28. He’s drawn 15 walks and only struck out six times this month. He’s dealt with fewer questions from reporters about his future than Price has, but he’s also performing like someone who wants to talk Andrew Friedman’s front office out of a sell-off.

The Rays likely will continue to assess their chances right up to the Deadline. But Price, Zobrist and Co. have made a compelling argument to stay.

“We’ve been playing so well that I haven’t been worrying about it too much. I think right now, it’s just so much fun to play with this club that it’s like, I can’t imagine anything being broke up at this point,” Zobrist said. “We seem to be a very, very good team in August and September. If history dictates anything, we’re going to continue to play the way that we can play for the last two months of the season.”

-Adam Berry

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