Cubs won’t force Brandon Morrow back into closer role when he’s back from injury
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After an encouraging bullpen session Wednesday, right-hander Brandon Morrow vowed to return to action this month for the first time since mid-July.
But can he be the closer in October the Cubs envisioned when they signed him to that two-year deal last winter?
“I don’t think it matters,” said Morrow, who threw all his pitches and reached 90-plus mph during a 35-pitch session at less than full throttle.
“I think we’ve got guys to cover all the innings. I’m hoping to be back and contribute in any way. There haven’t been any hiccups with [Pedro Strop], so there’s no reason to switch up what’s been working, even if I come back 101 percent.”
Even with Strop’s 11-for-13 performance in save situations since Morrow went on the disabled list at the All-Star break because of an elbow issue, the Cubs and the fan base don’t view Morrow’s return with the same ambivalence.
“It would matter that he’s able to participate in the bullpen effectively,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘And then if he happens to be pitching well enough and he can recover and he feels great, then you make him the closer again.
“Of course, you want him to be that guy. But if he’s not ready yet, you don’t force it.”
Morrow, 34, who still deals with “achiness” because of a bone bruise in his elbow, said he has “more pep in my step” as he has seen progress the last week and expects to throw a simulated game in the next few days.
Barring a setback, that would be the final step before a return to the mound in a low-leverage game situation, possibly by the end of next week.
Morrow, who was a key force in the Dodgers’ bullpen on the way to the World Series last year, is 22-for-24 in save chances with a 1.47 ERA this season. And his return is considered a key to the Cubs’ playoff plans.
“It’s definitely unfair to everyone else [in the bullpen],” he said. “They don’t need me to win games; that’s been evident. We still have the best record in the National League without me for half the year, so it’s obviously not like I’m the key.
“But I think everybody helps. I bring at least a little bit of experience from last year, and I’m going to be happy to be back and ready.”