Number of Cubs on COVID-related IL grows

Infielder Duffy joins trio of relievers who are self-isolating

April 14th, 2021

The Cubs navigated last season without a positive COVID-19 test among their player group. It was a small victory within a complicated and trying season for the club and the sport as a whole.

"We feel very fortunate in that way," Cubs manager David Ross said on Monday.

Prior to Tuesday's game in Milwaukee, the Cubs placed infielder Matt Duffy on MLB's COVID-19 related injured list -- a day after the team placed relievers Jason Adam, Dan Winkler and Brandon Workman on the list as well. Starter Kyle Hendricks was then a late scratch from Tuesday's game against the Brewers "out of an abundance of caution" due to not feeling well.

Ross indicated pregame on Tuesday that none of the players on the IL have tested positive for COVID-19, but the Cubs are "going to err on the side of caution" if anyone -- players, coaches or any staff around the team -- displays any symptoms that could be a sign of illness.

The players on the IL are currently self-isolating, along with first-base coach Craig Driver and bullpen coach Chris Young. Driver did not travel to the weekend series in Pittsburgh following a positive COVID-19 test, and Young did not join the team in Milwaukee following a positive test of his own. The Cubs have been taking daily COVID-19 tests and conducting contact tracing since Wednesday.

With the permission of the impacted coaches, Ross noted that Driver has received his first vaccine dose and is currently in the three-week waiting period prior to the second shot. Young has been fully vaccinated, but it is possible he contracted the virus prior to reaching the two-week point (Sunday) from his second vaccine shot. Ross relayed that both coaches are encouraging others around the team who have not yet been vaccinated to consider doing so.

"They think the fact that they've had the shot is actually a positive and would recommend to everybody to get the shot," Ross said. "C.Y. feels completely fine. I think they think the reason why they feel as good as they do is because they've had some version of the shot. I wanted to get that information out there for them, and on behalf of [the team]. We are taking this seriously and we're trying to get everybody vaccinated as [soon as] we possibly can."

The Cubs recalled lefties Justin Steele and Brad Wieck and selected righty Pedro Strop as a replacement player from their alternate training site in South Bend, Ind., to fill the bullpen vacancies on Monday. Utility man Ildemaro Vargas was selected from South Bend on Tuesday. Adam, Duffy, Winkler and Workman do not count against the 40-man roster.

"You're worried about the health and well-being of others," Ross said. "I think it just hits home every time my phone rings and it's one of the docs or the trainers or [president of baseball operation Jed Hoyer]. Your heart sinks.

"And we're trying to win ballgames, too, right? There's just a lot going on, and everybody understands the world we're in. Yeah, you just want to make sure everybody comes out OK and stays healthy."

Ross noted that Young had two negative tests before traveling on the team flight to Chicago from Pittsburgh after Sunday's game. A subsequent positive test for Young, combined with contact tracing, led to isolating him and the three pitchers in Chicago.

Ross expressed hope that this latest episode will help the Cubs' efforts to have more than 85 percent of their Tier 1 personnel vaccinated.

"We're definitely hopeful," Ross said on Monday. "We're hopeful that guys can see the value in being vaccinated, and trying to get toward that threshold number. But again, each guy makes their choices. It's readily available."

Clubs were informed at the start of the season that MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association have agreed to relax certain health and safety protocols contained in the 2021 Operations Manual for fully vaccinated Tier 1 Individuals, and for clubs where 85 percent of their Tier 1 Individuals are fully vaccinated.

Last season, Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy had a grueling month-long battle with COVID-19 during baseball's shutdown period. Quality assurance coach Mike Napoli also dealt with the virus prior to joining the team in Summer Camp before the 2020 season.

"There's a lot more stories," Hottovy said this past weekend, "a lot more case studies, I guess you could say, that we all have gone through with people. Like, look, understanding everybody has their own choice of what they want to do with getting vaccinated, all I can do is share my story and kind of what I went through."