Brandon Morrow takes one last shot to help Cubs’ bullpen — but don’t ask him how it’ll turn out

“So far, so good,” the once-dominant former Cubs closer said Monday as he embarks on another comeback trail with the Cubs. “I’m not looking to declare I’m back or anything like that yet. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

SHARE Brandon Morrow takes one last shot to help Cubs’ bullpen — but don’t ask him how it’ll turn out
‘‘I felt like there was a lot of missed opportunity for me and the team,’’ Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow said. ‘‘I felt like my absence created a lot of problems, problems the team had to address. But I could be stronger for it this year.’’

‘‘I felt like there was a lot of missed opportunity for me and the team,’’ Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow said. ‘‘I felt like my absence created a lot of problems, problems the team had to address. But I could be stronger for it this year.’’

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — A dominant return to action by April? A strong, healthy right arm for a full season? The secret weapon that makes the Cubs’ bullpen a force again?

Nineteen months after his last big-league game, what can reliever Brandon Morrow do for the Cubs this season and why should anybody believe he’ll stay healthy enough to matter?

Don’t ask Morrow.

‘‘So far, so good,’’ the once-dominant former Cubs closer said after working out Monday on the eve of pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training. ‘‘I’m not looking to declare I’m back or anything like that yet. I’m cautiously optimistic.’’

Morrow, 35, is in camp on a non-roster, minor-league deal after a series of elbow problems sidelined him for all but the first half-season of his two-year, $21 million deal with the Cubs (2018-19).

A surgery in September to relieve nerve pressure has given him good-enough health and optimism — so far — for one last chance to try to pitch again. And after the way things ended between him and the Cubs, he offered to make the most of that chance on a small, make-good contract.

‘‘I felt like there was a lot of missed opportunity for me and the team,’’ he said. ‘‘I felt like my absence created a lot of problems, problems the team had to address. But I could be stronger for it this year.’’

If he is healthy, his impact on a bullpen that, on paper, looks worse than it was last season would seem obvious. In his healthy half-season in 2018, Morrow had a 1.47 ERA and 22 saves. Without him in 2019, the Cubs watched their bullpen struggle in high-leverage situations all season, were forced to sign Craig Kimbrel (who struggled) and missed the playoffs.

Morrow has thrown four bullpen sessions since arriving early for camp and has another scheduled for Thursday. He said he’s having ‘‘aches and pains’’ but is recovering more quickly this time around and said, ‘‘I just hope it’s part of the rehab process.’’

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Morrow will be eased into game action this spring and might get some of that on the minor-league side of camp to control the environment better.

‘‘But I don’t foresee a whole lot of shackles on him,’’ Hottovy said. ‘‘Everything we’ve seen right now, he feels good and his throwing program has been progressing well. We know there’s going to be a point where we’re going to say, ‘OK, we need an extra day here or there.’ But for right now, it won’t be too different from a progression you may see for a Kimbrel or for a [Jeremy] Jeffress or some of these [other] more veteran guys.’’

That might mean a setup role when the season opens, a lesser role, more time in extended spring or an early-season minor-league assignment. Who knows?

Don’t ask Morrow.

‘‘I just don’t want to say anything too drastic,’’ he said. ‘‘No matter how I’m feeling, you probably won’t hear me say too much.’’

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