CHICAGO -- The Cubs were already in the market for bullpen help this offseason. That need became even more apparent on Thursday, when it was revealed that Brandon Morrow underwent a procedure on his right elbow last month.
Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced that Morrow had an arthroscopic debridement performed on his throwing elbow on Nov. 6 to clean up some cartilage in the joint. Morrow is not scheduled to resume throwing until early February, putting his availability for the start of the season in jeopardy.
"He's feeling really good one month post-op," Epstein said. "Feb. 6 is sort of the target date for him to start throwing. That probably doesn't give him enough time to be fully 100 percent and ready Opening Day, but we think shortly thereafter."
Last offseason, the Cubs signed Morrow to a two-year, $21 million contract that includes a $12 million team option (or $3 million buyout) for 2020. In 35 appearances out of Chicago's bullpen last season, the right-hander posted a 1.47 ERA with 31 strikeouts, nine walks and 22 saves. Morrow landed on the disabled list on July 19, and he was declared done for the season in September due to right forearm inflammation and a nagging bone bruise.
"As we gave him plenty of time to heal from the bone bruise, he felt a lot better," Epstein said. "But, his elbow didn't feel perfect. It didn't feel quite as he was expecting it should feel as the bone bruise was allowed to heal. So ... we made the decision to go in and just do a quick scope."
Epstein said the Cubs remain focused on acquiring relief help, especially in light of Morrow's situation.
"It kind of underscores the need for depth and late-game options early in the year," Epstein said. "For him, I think it'll be a positive. It'll mean that we've completely addressed the issues that were bothering him last year instead of waiting for him to come back to make sure. And then also it could really help him be strong late in the season as well."
• Cubs manager Joe Maddon told the Tampa Bay Times last month that he planned on getting more involved in hands-on coaching next season. During Thursday's news conference, Epstein said Maddon's remarks merely reflected the organization's emphasis on having a heightened sense of urgency during the 2019 campaign.
"We're all accountable -- me, especially -- for what happened last year," Epstein said. "That's the first step. And then it's, 'How do I get better?' If that wasn't our best, what is our best and how do we get there? And I think that's the mindset Joe is in. ... I think it's sort of a return to his roots. The Joe Maddon who's buzzing around in the middle of all the action, talking to his players all the time and really engaged with what's going on on the field and in his players' lives, that's the very best Joe Maddon.
"And I think if he can make small adjustments to give even more of himself to that pursuit, then the whole organization is going to be better off. He's really excited about sort of the challenge that this year presents for him and for us, and I'm excited by his attitude about it."
• Esptein said the Cubs "owe our fans a great deal of transparency" when it comes to the situation surrounding shortstop Addison Russell, who will be ineligible until May 3 while finishing a 40-game suspension for violating MLB's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. Russell was tendered a contract on Friday and the organization issued statements about working with the shortstop on a treatment plan, among other initiatives involving addressing the issue on a larger scale.
"Given the way we're handling this," Epstein said, "it's appropriate for the public to hold us accountable for our words and make sure that those translate into actions. I can just tell you that we're certainly intent on it. There's work that's going on with that in various corners of the organization every single day."
• Epstein noted that head athletic trainer PJ Mainville recently checked in with Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish, who underwent a debridement procedure on his right elbow on Sept. 12. Mainville reported that Darvish is doing well in his rehab and could resume a throwing progression in the next couple weeks.
• Kristopher Bryant, who was hampered by a left shoulder injury for much of last season, is doing well in his offseason program. Per Epstein, Bryant currently has no limitations in his workouts, but he noted that the third baseman does not typically ramp up his hitting program until January.