WASHINGTON — To hear Brandon Morrow talk, the news of his demise is premature.
The Cubs might find out Sunday exactly how premature.
That’s when the power-pitching closer expects to throw from a mound for the first time in more than three weeks, testing an achy right elbow that could yet eliminate him from heavy — if any — lifting in the postseason and deal the Cubs’ playoff chances a significant blow.
For now, Morrow — whose breakout 2017 performance as a setup man played a big role in the Dodgers’ National League pennant — is hopeful the lingering pain from a bone bruise in his elbow has subsided enough to withstand enough high-intensity throwing to allow a mid-September return.
“It’s good right now. I don’t know how it’ll be when I’m throwing it 98 mph, but I’m going to try,” he said. “There’s not that much time [left in the season], but I’m trying.”
Morrow spoke just one day after manager Joe Maddon said Morrow could miss the rest of the season after being out since the All-Star break.
His return is anything but certain as Sunday’s big test approaches. Morrow was forced to take a day off from his throwing program in the past week because it was “a little sore and achy,” then said he felt fine playing catch from 110 feet Wednesday.
“I’m trying to be confident about it; there’s not really another mindset that you can have,” he said. “I’m hoping it just holds up and doesn’t hurt too bad, and I can at least get as many appearances as it takes before it gets to that point again. I don’t know where the pain’s going to plateau or how many outings it’s going to take before I can’t go through it anymore.
“It’s just hard to predict what to expect when you don’t see a lot of bone bruises in forearms.”
Even if Sunday is a success and Morrow returns from the injury, his duty will be limited enough that Maddon said he doesn’t anticipate pushing him even to back-to-back days of pitching.
“Can he pitch well by pitching in discomfort? I have no idea,” Maddon said when asked about the team’s willingness to use Morrow with lingering soreness. “It’s something we’ll have to evaluate as we go along. I really listen to the athlete, especially the veteran athlete. He’s going to dictate or tell you exactly what he can or cannot do.”
Said Morrow: “There’s a little bit of ache in there, but it’s not taking strength away. I feel strong when I have the ball in my hand and I’m throwing. That part gives me confidence.”
Left fielder Kyle Schwarber, whose back locked up just before hitting a home run Wednesday night in Milwaukee, was out of the lineup Thursday but reported significant improvement — enough that he came off the bench in the sixth and drew a pinch-hit walk.
Schwarber, who had “tweaked” the back earlier in the game Wednesday and left the game after the homer, has been managing tightness in his back much of the past week.
Vote of confidence
Barely two weeks after the trade that sent him to the Cubs, Daniel Murphy returned to Washington, slept in his own bed, checked in with old friends and once again weighed in on the job embattled first-year Nats manager Davey Martinez has done.
“I enjoyed playing for him,” Murphy said of Martinez, the former Cubs bench coach who only Wednesday got a vote of confidence from Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.
“I think he’s a good man. I think he’s a really good baseball man,” Murphy said. “I thought in the midst of a lot of trials, he was always positive. And we always played hard for him, which is a reflection of the manager when things aren’t going well. I wish I would have been able to do more for him.”