Cubs closer Morrow out for the season
Veteran righty shut down due to lingering forearm pain
PHOENIX -- Brandon Morrow was optimistic after throwing one inning of a simulated game on Saturday in Chicago. But when he tried to reach for a cup of coffee on Monday and couldn't pick it up because of discomfort in his right forearm, the Cubs reliever knew his season was done.
Morrow, sidelined since July 18, has been shut down for the remainder of the season because of a nagging bone bruise. On Monday, Morrow saw an orthopedic specialist, Dr. Dan Sheridan, who works with the D-backs and has treated the right-hander in the past. Sheridan confirmed the diagnosis.
"We knew we were running out of time to begin with, just because of the nature of the injury and the amount of time it takes to clear out, and just really didn't have enough time," Morrow said Tuesday, sitting in the visitor's dugout at Chase Field.
"The sim game, I did feel OK," Morrow said. "I probably got a little overconfident with it, obviously, the way I felt that day. I felt OK throughout the night. The next morning was when I knew things were going in the wrong way. I woke up feeling the same as I was a couple months ago. Yesterday was tough. It sucks."
Morrow has not pitched for the Cubs since July 15, but the relief corps has held up well in his absence, tying for ninth in baseball with a 3.65 bullpen ERA since his last appearance. The righty recorded a 1.47 ERA with 22 saves in his debut season in Chicago, striking out 31 batters in 30 2/3 innings.
"We wanted him back, absolutely," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's one of the best in the business. It's just not happening right now."
Morrow is one of seven pitchers to record a save this season for the Cubs, and they'll continue to use a closer-by-committee approach. However, Pedro Strop, who has handled most of the workload since Morrow was sidelined, is out with a strained right hamstring. Strop hopes to return before the regular season ends on Sept. 30.
The Cubs acquired Albertin Chapman in 2016, and he was a key piece to the World Series championship. In 2017, Wade Davis was the Cubs' closer, and the team reached the National League Championship Series. The 2018 Cubs are leading the NL Central. Can they win without a closer?
"Of course it can be done. I've been there," Maddon said of his 2008 Rays, who lost closer Troy Percival to injury but reached the World Series. "We didn't win, but we got there. It's always nice to have that guy, whether it's Chappy a couple years ago or what Wade was able to do last year. There's other guys. Let's get Stropy well again. That could be very beneficial. The other guys have done fantastic jobs. If we continue to match them up and don't beat anybody up, we can continue the same trend."
The Cubs will take their remaining 12 games to sort out who can best handle the late-inning situations.
"We have a deep bullpen that has accomplished quite a bit," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We're leading the league in ERA, and that's no small feat. It's not one or two pitchers but a team-wide effort. We have some talented guys back there and guys who want the ball and aren't afraid in big spots. Those guys will have to step up and expand their roles.
"It's not going to be perfect. There's no panic here. If we lose a game late, there won't be any panic and we'll find a way."
Morrow reached the World Series last season with the Dodgers but lost to the Astros.
"I was looking forward to [the postseason] and looking forward to helping the team finish out the season," Morrow said. "I'll be rooting for them."