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Morrow's return this year in doubt for Cubs

Closer (biceps) has not thrown off mound since July 18
September 5, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday there is "barely" enough time to get closer Brandon Morrow ready to pitch this year. If the Cubs get to the postseason, Pedro Strop would be the primary closer, but otherwise they'll go with a group effort.Morrow, who signed a two-year contract

MILWAUKEE -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday there is "barely" enough time to get closer Brandon Morrow ready to pitch this year. If the Cubs get to the postseason, Pedro Strop would be the primary closer, but otherwise they'll go with a group effort.
Morrow, who signed a two-year contract with the Cubs in December, has been sidelined since July 18 with right biceps inflammation and has yet to throw off a mound.
"We're very much aware of [the time]," Maddon said Wednesday. "We'd love to have him back. Even when he does come back, if it is toward the end, how do you utilize that because you can't push him two days in a row? That impacts the rest of the group. These are the things we have to consider."
The Cubs acquired Albertin Chapman midseason in 2016, and he helped them win the World Series that year. They traded for Wade Davis last year to be the closer. Still, Maddon feels the Cubs can win without a designated closer.
"We got close with the Rays," Maddon said of the 2008 season. "We didn't have that one guy at the end."
Troy Percival was the Rays' closer that year, but he was injured, so Maddon relied on Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell instead. The Rays won the American League East and lost to the Phillies in the World Series, but Maddon said they were not "eliminated because of the lack of a bullpen."
It will make it tougher.
"When you have an anchor, that one guy at the end, who can get the three plus outs, you can manage the game differently," Maddon said. "It's like how we used Wade last year in Washington. If you don't have that, you have to manipulate it. Does it become more difficult? It probably does. But it can be done."
Strop, Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, and Brandon Kintzler all have experience as a closer for other teams. Maddon feels C.J. Edwards has the potential to be a closer. But Maddon also feels the key moment in a game could come in the sixth or seventh innings, when he may decide to call on Strop because of the matchups.
"We have other guys who are also capable of getting the last three outs," Maddon said.
As of now, the Cubs feel they'd be lucky to get Morrow back this year.
"At this point of the year, he's been out for a bit," Maddon said. "We're still not on the mound yet. It's [Sept. 5], right? Twenty-five more days in the month. It's hard to get him up to speed. You have to talk about building arm strength up, seeing hitters, throwing, day off, throwing again, and then just to be cautious regarding consecutive appearances or how many pitches he'll throw. There's a lot to consider yet."
This season, Strop has gone 11-for-15 in save opportunities. He has the experience and the moxie.
"He's always had the ability to be a closer," Maddon said of the right-hander. "The slider is devastating. He's added a cutter and splitter to his repertoire. There's a lot of stuff to like there. He's been a pretty good strike thrower. He's got the right kind of attitude. If it's a bad day, he's able to eject it. If it's a great day, he just moves it along. I'm a big fan."
Garcia thrilled to join Cubs
Left-hander Jaime Garcia was surprised when he heard that the Cubs had acquired him. Happy, too.
"I'm excited to be here," said Garcia, who the Cubs signed to a Minor League contract after he was released by the Blue Jays.
This is the first season he has pitched in relief and said it took him a few games to get used to warming up quickly. He checked with former teammates John Lackey and Jason Motte about what it was like to play for the Cubs, and both endorsed the team, as did his friend and current Chicago reliever, Jorge De La Rosa.
"Being with the Cardinals for many years and playing against this team a bunch of times, I've seen the direction they've gone the last three, four years and it's for sure something special," Garcia said. "You can see it from the other dugout, you can see the fun they're having."
Heyward update
Outfielder Jason Heyward, on the disabled list with right hamstring tightness since Friday, has yet to resume baseball activities.
"It's really difficult to replace Jason Heyward, and I think during this stretch, people should really learn to appreciate [him]," Maddon said. "Regardless of whether he's hitting .500 or not, it doesn't matter. You know what his presence means to us. You can see it. Not only that but his voice, his leadership. It's there and we're missing that right now."
Heat in DC
The forecast for the Cubs' upcoming series against the Nationals calls for hot weather in Washington. The Cubs do get a little bit of a break because they'll play night games at Nationals Park.
"It helps," Maddon said. "To have to play those games in the daylight would be difficult. They have [Stephen] Strasburg and [Max] Scherzer pitching, which kind of negates the warm fuzzy of playing a night game."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.