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Cubs remain cautious with series against Cardinals scheduled to start Friday

“We’re approaching it as if we’re going there to play. We have to prepare to go, and we’ll just wait to hear a definitive word when it comes,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said.

Cubs manager David Ross throws the ball during  practice at Wrigley Field last month.
Cubs manager David Ross throws the ball during practice at Wrigley Field last month.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

The Cubs are off to their best start since 2016, but the lingering effects of MLB’s latest coronavirus outbreak are putting a damper on things.

They’re scheduled to face the Cardinals on Friday after the two-game series against the Royals in Kansas City, but 13 members of the Cards’ organization have tested positive for the coronavirus.

MLB announced Monday that it planned to have the Cardinals resume their season Friday against the Cubs. St. Louis hasn’t played a game since July 29 after its three-game series with Detroit was postponed. While MLB has a tentative plan to move forward, the Cubs are still maintaining a more cautious approach.

“Major League Baseball has a lot to work through with the Cardinals each day to try to assess the situation,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “We’re approaching it as if we’re going there to play. We have to prepare to go, and we’ll just wait to hear a definitive word when it comes.

“If they determined that those games should be played, it’ll come hand in hand with the determination that it’s safe for us. I’m sure they’ll share the relevant information and be transparent about everything that’s transpired, so that we can, in turn, reassure our players and staff who would be making that trip that they’re not putting themselves in harm’s way.”

On Tuesday, the Cardinals put six players on the COVID-19 injured list. St. Louis, with permission from the players, announced that Yadier Molina, Paul DeJong, Junior Fernandez, Kodi Whitley, Edmundo Sosa and Rangel Ravelo tested positive for the virus.

The COVID-19 injured list does not have a minimum number of days. Players are eligible to return once they clear the league’s protocol.

“I think all that we can really do is worry about the Chicago Cubs,” left-hander Jon Lester said Saturday. “I know that kind of sounds selfish with everything going on in the world. You don’t ever wish anybody to get sick or anything like that. But if we continue to follow the protocols that we have in place as the Chicago Cubs and the protocols that MLB has in place, I feel like it puts us in a good position to succeed.”

There has been heightened scrutiny of MLB’s health and safety protocols after the league’s recent outbreaks. According to multiple reports, Marlins and Cardinals players were following health and safety protocols loosely or not at all.

Epstein made a point on Tuesday that it’s not correct to assume all players who tested positive did something wrong or broke protocol, pointing out that the unknown nature of COVID-19 makes it difficult to achieve perfection.

“That’s not how this works,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘Everyone I know outside of baseball who’s become positive, who got COVID-19 at some point, did everything right. Washed their hands, wore masks, socially distanced, and they still became positive. They don’t know where. It could have been in the grocery store. It could have been walking down the street. As far as I know, that’s the case inside baseball, too.

“Setting rumors aside, the people who I personally know in baseball who have become positive did everything right. So that’s just a good reminder for us that no set of protocols will keep everyone safe. We have to continue to learn from every day that goes on, tighten up the protocols, adjust the protocols and make sure our execution is as close to perfect as we can possibly get, knowing that even that’s not enough to ensure there won’t be positives. There will be. That’s the nature of [the coronavirus]. This is everywhere in the country. And, unfortunately, we’re going in the wrong direction nationwide. It’s a fraught environment that we’re operating in, and we’re going to need to do our absolute best and also be fortunate.”