PITTSBURGH — For being one of the least-vaccinated teams in the majors, the Cubs have claimed a diligence in adhering to MLB protocols and CDC guidelines while managing to stay remarkably clear of COVID-19 outbreaks all season — until this week.
But just how diligent have they been? Rookie pitcher Manny Rodriguez posted a picture on social media during last week’s homestand of MMA fighter Conor McGregor posing with him in the Cubs clubhouse, which represented a clear violation of protocols.
Neither wore a mask in the picture, nor did another Cubs player in the background.
“That’s probably more on me,” manager David Ross said. “The guys were excited. I let that happen. That’s probably more an area where I let my guard down and probably shouldn’t have. I’ll take responsibility for that.”
It immediately raised eyebrows and questions about how lax the Cubs’ safety practices might be — not to mention whether that breach of the Cubs’ Tier 1-only area could have been related to a COVID-19 outbreak that has sent two players to the COVID injured list during this week’s series in Pittsburgh.
Ross said he doesn’t believe the specific McGregor contact last week had anything to do with the COVID issue that sidelined Patrick Wisdom and Austin Romine the past two days (although the club has not officially disclosed the causes for their IL moves).
“But who knows, right?” Ross said. “We’re living our everyday lives. I hadn’t heard if Conor is positive or not. We haven’t kept in touch.
“We’re traveling; we’re around strangers every single day. It’s hard to know for sure where it actually came from. But I’ll definitely take the Conor stuff. That should be on my plate.”
The Cubs shuttled six players into Pittsburgh on Thursday as reinforcements for a possible spread of the outbreak over the final few games. One of the six, Erick Castillo, replaced Romine on the roster Thursday — and later became the 66th player used by the Cubs this year, extending their National League record.
“We’re still running through all the testing and think we’ve got it contained,” Ross said, calling the sudden reactivation of the taxi squad a move out of “an abundance of caution.”