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Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow experiences setback, timeline to return unknown

Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow experienced another setback in his recovery from offseason elbow surgery. | Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

After progressing in his rehab from offseason elbow surgery, Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow suffered a setback this week, and manager Joe Maddon said Saturday the team is temporarily shutting him down.

Morrow, who missed the second half of last season with biceps inflammation, told the Cubs he felt discomfort after throwing in a side session last week. His timeline to return is unclear.

“The bounce back after the last time out wasn’t as good,” Maddon said. “So we have to back off him once again. And just slow things down. It’s just where he’s at. It’s not unlike what’s been going on earlier, so it was all trending very well, and this last time, just not as good.”

Morrow, who is signed through 2019 with a club option for 2020, underwent elbow surgery in November and has been recovering in Arizona. The Cubs had been relying on Morrow to return as their closer.

Morrow has been plagued with injuries throughout his career. He has been on the injured list at least once in eight of the last nine seasons for various injuries, including forearm tightness, a strained oblique, an entrapped radial nerve, shoulder inflammation, a finger injury and a tight back.

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At 34, Morrow, who debuted in 2007, still has never made it through a full major-league season. He came close twice. In 2010, he made 26 starts but was shut down in September because he reached his innings limit. In 2017 — the last time he stayed healthy for a season — Morrow started in the minors after he was a non-roster invitee to the Dodgers’ spring training.

The Cubs’ bullpen got off to a rough start this season, allowing 31 runs in 29⅓ innings through the first eight games. They’ve put together better outings lately, combining for a 1.80 ERA in the last 11 games.

The bullpen has been anchored by right-handers Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler. Cishek has five consecutive scoreless outings, and Kintzler has allowed one hit in his last four appearances.

Scare at home

Maddon said catcher Willson Contreras is fine after Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker took out his left leg while sliding into home to score in the sixth inning.

Contreras was charged with an error when he dropped a throw from third baseman Kris Bryant. Though Contreras stayed in the game after the scare, Maddon replaced him in the eighth with Taylor Davis.

Contreras, who went 1-for-3 and has reached base in eight consecutive games, is expected to start Sunday in the series finale.