Cubs shut down closer Brandon Morrow for season

SHARE Cubs shut down closer Brandon Morrow for season

Morrow had a 1.47 ERA and 22 saves in 24 chances this season.

PHOENIX — The long and grinding road to the National League pennant just got a lot tougher to navigate for the Cubs.

Injured closer Brandon Morrow, who was expected to return by the end of the month, instead was shut down for the season Tuesday after an exam by the Diamondbacks’ orthopedist confirmed the bone bruise in his right elbow isn’t healing well enough for him to pitch through it.

‘‘We were hoping to bring him back, but we were certainly prepared for this reality, knowing he was trying to do something that was difficult, to say the least,’’ Cubs president Theo Epstein said of Morrow, who had planned to pitch through discomfort in an effort to contribute in the playoffs.

Morrow, who hasn’t pitched since the last game before the All-Star break in July, is expected to be at full strength when spring training starts in February.

‘‘We were kind of hesitant and cautious,’’ Epstein said of Morrow’s rehab efforts since an MRI exam in July revealed the injury. ‘‘Anytime the plan is to pitch through discomfort, that’s not a great long-term formula. But we kind of let him go as long as he was honest with us about it, and he was.’’

In the days after his simulated game Saturday, Morrow said he had trouble doing simple daily tasks — such as reaching for a cup of coffee — without feeling a ‘‘grabbing’’ pain as he extended his arm.

‘‘It was time to do the right thing and let this thing heal,’’ Epstein said.

The setback comes less than a week after the Cubs lost backup closer Pedro Strop for the rest of the regular season because of a hamstring injury.

Two years after winning the World Series with workhorse closer Aroldis Chapman and a year after reaching the National League Championship Series with All-Star closer Wade Davis, the Cubs are faced with using a closer-by-committee approach.


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Manager Joe Maddon reached the World Series with the Rays in 2008 without a true closer, and the Astros won it last season without a set late-inning crew.

‘‘Of course, it can be done,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I’ve been there. We didn’t win [in 2008], but we got there. It’s always nice to have that guy, whether it was [Chapman] a couple of years ago or even what Wade was able to do last year.

‘‘However, there’s other guys. I think if we can continue to match them up and don’t beat anybody up, we can continue the same trend.’’

The Cubs added relievers Jesse Chavez and Brandon Kintzler at the non-waiver trade deadline in July, then added Jorge De La Rosa and Jaime Garcia after the deadline. They’ve also kept some backups, including former Red Sox and Diamondbacks pitcher Allen Webster, on throwing programs as possible additions in the coming days. Webster was signed to a minor-league deal in March.

‘‘Obviously, it was a disappointment, just like it was when [Strop] went down,’’ Epstein said, noting the Cubs have the top bullpen ERA in the NL. ‘‘There’s no reason to hang our heads. We have a deep bullpen that’s accomplished quite a bit.’’

The Cubs’ bullpen hasn’t allowed a run since Strop’s injury, with Randy Rosario, De La Rosa and Steve Cishek earning saves since.

‘‘There’s no panic here,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘If we lose a game late, there’s not going to be any panic. We’re going to find a way.’’

Morrow, who also missed time with back spasms in June, had a 1.47 ERA and 22 saves in 24 chances this season.

Epstein suggested Morrow’s arm problems might have begun June 2, when he was supposed to have the day off but talked his way into pitching a third consecutive day after the Cubs took a 13th-inning lead in New York.

‘‘It sucks,’’ Morrow said. ‘‘On a positive note, it’s another injury that does not require surgery, and with time off I should be 100 percent by spring training.’’

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