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Morrow ready for spotlight of new role

Newly appointed closer aims for postseason success after breakout
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- A year ago, Brandon Morrow was in the Dodgers' camp after signing a Minor League contract. He'd had right shoulder surgery in August 2015, and lost 25 pounds after a nasty bout with valley fever. He finished last season pitching in the World Series for the Dodgers.

Today, the right-hander has a three-year deal with the Cubs and is their new closer. And Morrow has an easy 15-minute commute from his house to the Cubs' Spring Training complex.

MESA, Ariz. -- A year ago, Brandon Morrow was in the Dodgers' camp after signing a Minor League contract. He'd had right shoulder surgery in August 2015, and lost 25 pounds after a nasty bout with valley fever. He finished last season pitching in the World Series for the Dodgers.

Today, the right-hander has a three-year deal with the Cubs and is their new closer. And Morrow has an easy 15-minute commute from his house to the Cubs' Spring Training complex.

The biggest difference for Morrow? He's healthy. In 2015-16 with the Padres, he was limited to 23 games because of his shoulder and the virus.

"Coming in last year, I knew from the first day I picked up a baseball that things would be different," Morrow said Friday.

With the Dodgers, Morrow posted a 2.06 ERA over 43 2/3 innings in 45 games. The Cubs saw too much of the right-hander in the National League Championship Series when he limited them to one hit over 4 2/3 innings in four games.

Because of his postseason work, the Cubs pushed his spring schedule back.

"I've felt great since I picked up a ball the first time [this year]," he said. "I won't throw my first bullpen until the first day of workouts so I'm three or four weeks behind, but [the Dodgers] went four weeks longer than you normally would."

In 14 postseason games, Morrow threw 176 pitches over 13 2/3 innings. In 2016, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman threw 273 pitches over 15 2/3 innings in 13 games with the Cubs.

"That was something that stuck out to me," Morrow said of the different pitch counts. "It's like I was all season, I was very efficient and close to the leaders in pitches per inning on the low side. I've come a long way in my career.

"That's one of the things I like now is to be able to get in, get out, be effective in the strike zone, no free passes. I was able to limit that pretty good the last few years and I have to just keep building on that. The fact I was able to be so economical with my pitches bodes well for that future. I shouldn't have any sort of [World Series] hangover."

The Cubs liked what they saw, locking Morrow up on Dec. 12.

"The organization speaks for itself, Chicago sells itself," said Morrow, who has pitched as many regular-season games (two) as playoff games at Wrigley Field in his career.

"A lot of people will tell you there's no better place to play," he said. "There wasn't a lot to sell me on. They liked me, and they were aggressive. It's great when they tell you they like you and want you to come here. It was a good process all the way through."

When he did sign, Morrow was told he would be the closer unless Wade Davis returned. Davis is now with the Rockies.

"I was totally fine with that," Morrow said. "I was really very comfortable coming out of the bullpen last year and doing what I was doing. Obviously, to get all the experience in the pressure innings in the playoffs, which I hadn't been in before, and pitching innings that mattered [helped]."

He'd like to get that playoff feeling again. Morrow said Kenley Jansen used to joke that he was "bored" pitching in the ninth inning in August, saying, "Give me October."

That could be Morrow and the Cubs' motto this year, too.

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

Chicago Cubs, Brandon Morrow