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Theo Epstein says Craig Kimbrel’s late signing was biggest reason he struggled

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The Cubs’ late season collapse had a lot of causes, but certainly one of them was Craig Kimbrel‘s health and ineffectiveness. Kimbrel has a 6.53 ERA and has three blown saves and four losses in 17 games. He missed considerable time in both August and September as well.

What happened to Kimbrel, who has been among the best relief pitchers in all of baseball over the course of his career? Cubs president Theo Epstein thinks he knows. Here’s what he said to 670 The Score:

“We knew that given that he wouldn’t have a normal spring training, given that he was trying to do something that very few had ever done before, which was join the team midstream in a closer’s role, that there would be some risk. We felt it was certainly a risk worth taking. I think it’s impossible to pinpoint how much of his struggles have been because of that, but from my perspective it’s the single biggest factor. He’s never struggled like this before. He’s never even been close to having this type of performance before.”

Of course, the Cubs could’ve very easily signed Kimbrel at any time last offseason and certainly before June, which would not have deprived him of the normal spring training and normal start that Epstein cites as paramount in Kimbrel’s downfall in 2019. They didn’t, though, because Kimbrel had draft pick compensation attached to him until June and the Cubs didn’t want to give up a pick — the 64th pick in the draft, by the way — in order to get him. They probably also saved a decent amount of money by waiting him out until the season was already halfway over.

One way to interpret the “risk” that Epstein felt was “worth taking” is the risk of putting a less-than-prepared Kimbrel on his team. But it’s more than that, right? To Epstein and the Cubs, who again, could’ve had Kimbrel at any time, it was worth putting an underprepared pitcher in the closer’s role in a playoff race order to preserve that 64th pick. A pick which turned out to be Chase Strumpf, a bat-first second baseman out of UCLA.

Guess we’ll see in a couple of years if Strumpf was worth missing the 2019 playoffs for.

Cards’ Yadier Molina says he tested positive for COVID-19

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St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina says he’s one of the players on the team who tested positive for COVID-19.

The nine-time All-Star revealed his results Tuesday in a Spanish-language Instagram post. Soon afterward, the Cardinals issued a release naming six of the players who have tested positive.

The others are infielders Paul DeJong, Edmundo Sosa and Rangel Ravelo along with pitchers Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley.

“I am saddened to have tested positive for COVID-19, even after adhering to safety guidelines that were put in place,” Molina said in a release issued by the team. “I will do everything within my power to return as soon as possible for Cardinals fans, the city of St. Louis and my teammates.”

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Monday that seven players and six staff members had tested positive. At the time, Mozeliak said the people to test positive hadn’t been identified publicly because they had declined to have their names released.

The Cardinals said Tuesday that six players had decided to grant permission to have their names revealed.

“I will approach my healing as I do all other things in my life – with education, commitment, and persistence. I look forward to re-joining the team soon and ask that you respect my privacy at this time,” DeJong said in a statement released by the team.

The outbreak resulted in the postponement of the Cardinals’ scheduled three-game weekend series at Milwaukee as well as a four-game series with Detroit that was supposed to run Monday through Thursday. The Cardinals have played just five games this season and are hoping to return to action Friday hosting the Chicago Cubs.

As of now, the Cardinals who have tested positive have returned home while the rest of the team remains isolated in Milwaukee hotel rooms. Their last game was July 29 at Minnesota.

Mozeliak said Monday that five of the 13 overall members of the Cardinals’ traveling party to test positive were asymptomatic. The other eight had minor symptoms including headaches, coughs, sniffles and low-grade fevers. Mozeliak said none of the eight had required hospitalization.

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