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Brandon Morrow’s long-shot comeback effort for Cubs suffers setback

Already on a slower build-up schedule than other pitchers, the once-dominant closer will back off more because of a ‘mild chest strain.’

Chicago Cubs Photo Day
Morrow
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

MESA, Ariz. – So much for visions of bullpen sugarplums and the comeback against all odds for Brandon Morrow.

That might be a little presumptuous with more than a month left before the season starts. But when Morrow, who hasn’t pitched since the 2018 All-Star break, suffered another injury setback in camp Friday, it likely scuttled his long-shot chance to open the season on time, at least.

For now, the Cubs are calling the issue a “mild upper chest strain” on his right (pitching) side. He was forced to cut short a throwing session Friday.

Already on a slower buildup schedule than other pitchers in camp, the Cubs’ once-dominant closer is to be backed off his work schedule and be reevaluated daily to determine when he can resume a throwing schedule.

Morrow, who became a free agent in the fall when the Cubs paid $3 million to buy out the third-year option on his two-year, $21 million contract , is back on a low-risk minor-league deal.

Morrow, 35, said when camp opened he was “cautiously optimistic” about a successful return from September surgery to relieve nerve pressure in his ailing elbow.

“I’m not looking to declare I’m back or anything like that yet,” he said then.

In the half-season he pitched for the Cubs he delivered 22 saves and a 1.47 ERA.

Before the elbow injury that eventually ended his 2018 season (and 2019), he also had spent large chunks of his career sidelined by injuries to his shoulder, elbow, forearm, oblique, finger and back.

Neighborly thing to do?

Hours before the Cubs’ new network broadcast an actual game, it featured its first mention of Steve Bartman during its pregame package of material leading up to Saturday’s broadcast.

Perhaps just one more reminder of why one of sport’s most bullied fans has chosen to keep a low profile around town and his favorite team growing up in the 17 years since the fateful Game 6 foul ball – and even in the three years since the Cubs bestowed the olive branch of a personalized World Series ring from the ’16 championship.

But maybe now that his old neighbor, Jason Kipnis, is with the club, there’s a new avenue for trying to bring Bartman back as a more visible member of the Cubs’ family?

“I have zero connection to him, zero way to even track him down,” said Kipnis, whose older sister might have ridden the bus to school with Bartman (who lived a couple blocks away), Kipnis surmised.

OK, so maybe not.

At least the Cubs made the gesture after the title. “I thought that was nice,” Kipnis said . ”He’s been a scapegoat for a lot of people with the stuff that happened, undeservedly so.”

For starters

Right-hander Alec Mills, one of the top two candidates for the fifth-starter opening, gave up a two-out walk during a scoreless first inning Saturday night against the Athletics that included a grounder, liner to first and fly to right.

Mills, who produced a 2.75 ERA in two stints for the Cubs last year that included four starts and five relief appearances, is battling veteran favorite Tyler Chatwood and rookie Adbert Alzolay for the rotation job.