It has been more than a week since Cubs closer Brandon Morrow threw from a mound for the only time since he last pitched in a game July 15. The right-hander played catch from 90 feet Monday and figures to have at least three more throwing sessions — with time off in between — before he gets on a mound again to air it out.
Whether or not that happens by the end of next week, and whether or not the irritation from the low-grade bone bruise in his elbow has cleared by then, three things seem certain:
First, a minor-league rehab assignment is ruled out, with minor-league seasons ending next week.
Second, the Cubs will need their shutdown closer — who was in the All-Star conversation with a 1.47 ERA and 22 saves — for a successful postseason run.
And third, “I will be back,” Morrow vowed.
Morrow, who seemed upbeat after throwing without discomfort Monday, expects to prepare for his return next month by eventually throwing a simulated game or two.
“And September baseball,” he said. “If they want to ease me in slowly, they can pick the spots.”
After his lone bullpen session Aug. 18, Morrow said he was resigned to the reality he’ll likely have to pitch with at least minor irritation in the elbow the rest of the season, whenever he returns.
For now, as the training staff determines his next step: “No discomfort playing normal catch at 90 feet,” he said. “That’s my official statement.”
Third baseman Kris Bryant (left shoulder) and right-hander Tyler Chatwood (hip) started brief rehab assignments for Class AAA Iowa on Monday. Bryant, who put on a power show in his final live batting practice sessions at Wrigley Field over the weekend, went 0-for-3 with a walk. The Cubs have not ruled out activating him before rosters expand Saturday.
“I saw good swings. I saw power. I saw really good mechanics,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m just concerned about stiffness, soreness, those kinds of things, and how well he can cope with that. I’ll take an 0-for-4, whatever, just get him back out there, get him playing again, because [even at less than 100 percent] you know it’s going to benefit you.”
Chatwood, who leads the majors in walks despite making only one start in the last month, didn’t fare so well, walking four in the second inning and forcing in two runs. His fifth walk of the game — on four pitches to ex-Cub Jorge Soler — ended his outing with one out in the fifth inning.
The Cubs’ flagship radio station, 670 The Score, reported Monday that the Cubs have taken another step toward their long-anticipated split from NBC Sports Chicago when their contract expires after next season — and possibly toward their own TV network.
To lead those TV efforts, the Cubs have hired Mike McCarthy, former president of MSG Network and former CEO of the St. Louis Blues, according to the report.