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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Cubs manager David Ross is working out how he plans to handle save situations while struggling closer Craig Kimbrel works on his mechanics.

Ross was non-committal when asked Saturday if he would give the ball to Kimbrel for the ninth inning if the Cubs had a one-run lead. Kimbrel struggled in his first two appearances this year after he had a tough time last season with Chicago.

“He’s frustrated. He wants to work through it. He wants to be better,” Ross said, “and so we’re here to help him and continue to move forward. We need him to be good if we’re going to have a lot of success.”

It’s a tough situation for Ross, who took over as manager in October. He played alongside Kimbrel while the two were in Atlanta. The 32-year-old Kimbrel is a key member of Chicago’s bullpen, but the pandemic-shortened season is quite unforgiving at just 60 games.

“I think the relationship that we’ve had helps with the conversations we’ve had lately,” Ross said. “I think he has a lot of trust in me. I have a lot of trust in him. We communicate well. We’ll continue to do that as we move through these things.”

If Ross decides to give Kimbrel some space, he could have Jeremy Jeffress take at least some save opportunities. Jeffress, who signed an $850,000, one-year contract with Chicago in free agency, has 45 saves in 11 years in the majors.

Kimbrel was once one of the most dominant relievers in the game. He was tagged with a qualifying offer when he became a free agent last winter, which contributed to the seven-time All-Star waiting all the way until last June before finalizing a $43 million, three-year contract with the Cubs.

Kimbrel struggled with injuries after he finally signed, finishing with a career-high 6.53 ERA and three blown saves in 16 chances last year.

The right-hander made his first appearance of this season at Cincinnati on Thursday. He issued four walks and allowed two runs before Jeffress got the last two outs, earning the save in Chicago’s 8-7 victory.

Kimbrel pitched again Friday night against Pittsburgh, allowing home runs by Colin Moran and Josh Bell in the ninth inning of the Cubs’ 6-3 win.

Kimbrel’s upper-90s velocity is there, but Ross said he is having some issues with his motion.

“I think there are some mechanical things that we can shore up to where he’s back to hiding the ball a little bit more, a little more deception in his delivery,” Ross said. “When he’s right, and some of the conversations we’ve had he’s not quite where he wants to be in that. He’s kind of in between.”

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Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Obesity could hinder COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness, experts say

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

As scientists continue to work on a COVID-19 vaccine, experts say the development may not include another widespread American health issue: obesity.

READ MORE: Dr. Anthony Fauci says a coronavirus vaccine may be coming in 2021

CNN Health reports a coronavirus vaccination will likely follow the path of the shots developed for influenza, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies in being less effective in obese adults. In turn, it will leave them more vulnerable to infection and illness.

A health care worker works at a COVID-19 testing site sponsored by Community Heath of South Florida at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinica Campesina Health Center, during the coronavirus pandemic, Monday, July 6, 2020, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

“Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese? No way,” says Raz Shaikh, to CNN.

The associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill continues, “Will it still work in the obese? Our prediction is no.”

According to CNN, over a million American adults are obese. This is defined by the CDC into three classes, beginning with adults registering a body mass index of over 30.

In March, research from China documenting how COVID-19 patients managed the illness noted heavier patients were more likely to die, CNN reports. As the novel coronavirus made its way through the United States, more obese patients were hospitalized leading federal officials to note obese populations as most vulnerable.

READ MORE: Virus vaccine put to final test in thousands of volunteer

A medical staff member prepares a syringe, at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Siphiwe Sibeko)

Black populations are being hit harder by the pandemic and underlying conditions, including obesity, are playing a part. Dr. Cwanza Pickney previously told theGrio, “as it pertains to Black people in the United States, we know that we’ve had a higher level of racial disparity in health care since the beginning of time, since we’ve entered this country.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office Of Minority Health finds in 2018, non-Hispanic Blacks were 1.3 times more likely to be obese compared to non-Hispanic whites with Black women 50 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white women.

CNN reports research shows that obesity can impact the body’s immune response, and the ability to fight off viruses. A healthy immune system signals inflammation as needed, using white blood cells and proteins to fight infections. In obese people, blood tests show that the inflammation never turns off.

A vaccine volunteer gets an injection at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Siphiwe Sibeko)

Back in 1985, obese hospital employees received a vaccine for hepatitis B showed a significant decline in protection 11 months later, an effect not noted in non-obese employees according to CNN. This resulted in a follow-up study where longer needles were used to inject patients, hoping to bypass fat and inject into muscle.

According to CNN, a 2017 study at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill found for the first time that vaccinated obese adults were twice as likely to develop influenza or flu-like illness compared with adults of a healthy weight, even though they developed anti-bodies.

“I’m not entirely sure why vaccine efficacy in this population hasn’t been more well reported,” says Catherine Andersen, an assistant professor of biology at Fairfield University, to CNN.

She continues, “It’s a missed opportunity for greater public health intervention.”

Still, according to some scientists, getting any vaccine is still better than none, obese populations included.

Dr. Timothy Garvey, an endocrinologist and director of diabetes research at the University of Alabama, tells CNN, “The influenza vaccine still works in patients with obesity, but just not as well…We still want them to get vaccinated.”

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