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Cubs get reality check as team faces COVID outbreak

The Cubs put two more players on the injured list without an injury designation Friday.

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

ST. LOUIS — The Cubs have had to scramble during the last 72 hours because of a COVID outbreak.

The team lost two more players for the final series of the season Friday, with outfielder Nick Martini and infielder David Bote going on the injured list. They joined third baseman Patrick Wisdom and catcher Austin Romine on the IL with COVID situations, and at least one tested positive.

‘‘Our radar is up, and it’s been that way,’’ manager David Ross said before the Cubs’ game Friday against the Cardinals. ‘‘I think when you have one pop positive, you have something that continues to linger over your head.

‘‘You hold your breath, and there could be nothing come of it. And then there’s what we’ve seen happen [this week]: There could be kind of a slow drip. So we’re hoping to get through this season healthy and still continue to perform and finish this thing out at a challenging time.’’

Ross said none of the players who are out is dealing with any serious symptoms. He noted a few are dealing with some congestion.

If there’s a surprise in the Cubs’ COVID outbreak, it’s not that it happened; it’s that it didn’t happen sooner. The Cubs didn’t have a player test positive for COVID-19 last season, but they couldn’t reach the 85% vaccination threshold Major League Baseball established this season.

‘‘It’s disappointing to not be at 85% as a team,’’ president Jed Hoyer said earlier in the season. ‘‘We’ve worked hard to try and convince or educate the people that have been reluctant.’’

Conversely, the Cardinals had an outbreak that nearly shutdown the sport in 2020 and were the first team to reach the 85% vaccination rate this season. They haven’t had a player test positive in 2021.

The Cubs shouldn’t need any eye-openers after going through a 60-game gauntlet last season while the world battled a global pandemic, but they had several before the outbreak took place.

Not only did first-base coach Craig Driver and bullpen coach Chris Young test positive for COVID earlier this season, but Ross and Hoyer tested positive last month. All four were vaccinated. Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, who also is vaccinated, had a serious bout with the virus last year.

‘‘I think we can look back and [ask], did or didn’t we take things for granted?’’ Ross said. ‘‘I think this shows that nobody’s immune to it. I don’t think anybody knows where these things stem from, and it’s the world we’re living in.’’

Not only does the Cubs’ outbreak pose a serious health risk to their personnel — on and off the field — but it also puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

The Cubs aren’t going to the postseason, but what if they were in contention or locked into a playoff spot? They would be in a no-win situation.

Hoyer and Ross voiced their frustration that players were slow about getting vaccinated, despite having multiple resources and the Cubs providing them with avenues to do their research.

While the team never reached the 85% threshold, Ross noted that some who weren’t convinced initially finally had come around.

‘‘I would say I don’t know where we’re at in the exact moment with all the guys that are in there now,’’ Ross said. ‘‘But I definitely will say we had a number of guys that did not get vaccinated to start the season get vaccinated.’’