Cubs’ Brandon Morrow won’t jump right back into closer’s role

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Brandon Morrow threw off the mound Saturday. | John Minchillo/Associated Press

Closer Brandon Morrow is close to being activated, but don’t take that to mean he’s close to finishing games.

With outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Terrance Gore standing in the batter’s box, Morrow threw 19 pitches off a mound Saturday. Morrow, who has been on the disabled list since July 18 with inflammation in his right triceps, was upbeat afterward and said he’ll be activated in a few days if he feels good Sunday.

‘‘I expect to feel good enough, so it was a successful day,’’ Morrow said.

Morrow isn’t expected to resume closing right away, but manager Joe Maddon didn’t rule it out sometime before the end of the season. And that’s a question that got more pressing after Pedro Strop went down with a hamstring injury Thursday.

‘‘We’ve just got to see him out there,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘This is a situation [where] the hitters are going to tell you where he’s at with his pitches.’’

Morrow said he’s comfortable pitching wherever, but he said the downsides of him returning to the closer’s role are that he can’t work in back-to-back games and that he’ll be on pitch counts for at least his first couple of outings.

‘‘It doesn’t matter,’’ Morrow said. ‘‘I’m happy at this point I was able to work back to a point where I’m feeling good about it right now, today. It looks like I’m going to be back in game action.’’

Saturday showed what life is like without a closer.

After Justin Wilson threw a scoreless eighth inning, Jesse Chavez, Randy Rosario and Steve Cishek each got an out during a tense ninth, with Cishek getting Eugenio Suarez to ground out to third to end the game.


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‘‘When Morrow was here, he was obviously the ninth-inning guy,’’ Cishek said. ‘‘But before that, it’s all matchups. So nothing’s really changed, in my opinion.’’

The closer-by-committee might not change for a while, either.

‘‘There is no closer,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Even when Stropy was here, he was not the closer. It’s about really just trying to manipulate the last out as well as you can.’’

What if?

Reds speedster Billy Hamilton was involved in two turning points Saturday.

The first came with two outs in the third, when center fielder Albert Almora Jr. made a diving catch on his sinking liner. If the ball had gotten past Almora, Hamilton easily could have turned it into an inside-the-park home run.

‘‘With a guy like that, I would rather Al take the chance any day,’’ starter Jon Lester said. ‘‘If it falls in and everybody’s sitting there going ‘What if?’ he’s on third anyway. [Hamilton’s] going to outrun the baseball, regardless.’’

The second sequence came with one out in the sixth, when Hamilton walked and stole second. Catcher Willson Contreras’ throw got past second baseman Javy Baez, but shortstop Addison Russell backed up the play to keep Hamilton at second. Hamilton then was thrown out trying to steal third.

‘‘That play that Addy made, it changes the game,’’ Lester said.

This and that

Maddon said that right fielder Jason Heyward (right hamstring) should be back ‘‘really soon’’ and that there’s a decent chance Schwarber (back) will be able to play this week against the Diamondbacks. It’s even possible he could pinch-hit Sunday.

Maddon said a rest for Baez is ‘‘coming to a theater very, very soon.’’

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