Cubs bullpen gets a shake-up with three arms hitting the COVID IL

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Last season, the Chicago Cubs were the only big league team to avoid any COVID-related IL trips. But after bullpen coach Chris Young tested positive for the virus this week, three relievers – Brandon Workman, Jason Adam and Dan Winkler are on the COVID injured list and are quarantining away from the team.

"“The guys have been pretty diligent about wearing their mask,” Cubs skipper David Ross said. “We’re hoping for the best, but we’re also planning for the worst. I think that’s just the way you have to kind of have that mindset in this time we’re in right now.”"

While that trio is under quarantine, the team will turn to a pair of lefties in Justin Steele and Brad Wieck and old friend Pedro Strop. Strop faced criticism this spring for violating the team’s COVID protocols – and will look to re-establish himself quickly as a member of this bullpen after a lost 2020 season with the Cincinnati Reds.

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Of course, for the better part of a decade, Strop was an anchor on some of the best Cubs teams in recent memory. Across seven seasons, including a lackluster 2019 campaign, he carries a 2.90 ERA spanning nearly 400 innings of work.

Steele and Wieck join Andrew Chafin and Rex Brothers as southpaws in the Chicago pen – with Strop, Ryan Tepera, Dillon Maples and Alec Mills handling things from the right side. On paper, at least, that leaves the Cubs a little weak from the right side – at least compared to having Winkler and Workman in the mix.

Winkler has been one of Ross’ go-to guys early on this season, evidenced by a team-leading five appearances. He’s worked to a 2.25 ERA and has limited opponents to a .143 average. Workman has made four outings, but a bumping showing against Milwaukee last week inflated his numbers, despite not allowing a single tally in his other three appearances.

Will this motivate more Cubs players to get vaccinated?

Over the weekend, we heard that virtually all of the White Sox traveling party received their coronavirus vaccine – but on the North Side, the team remained well short of the 85 percent vaccination rate required for loosened social restrictions.

One might think this incident, as well as the loss of another coach in Craig Driver due to a positive COVID-19 test, could sway some guys on the fence, but we’ll have to see. Similar to last season, these alternate site guys are going to be critical for not only Chicago, but every other club.

dark. Next. David Ross' excuses for the Cubs offense are tired

Until teams get enough guys vaccinated, these types of instances are going to keep popping up. The good news, though? With the Cubs’ offense not scoring, I suppose it won’t matter a whole lot who’s on the mound late in the game at this point.