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The Chicago Cubs are cruising along with the best record in the National League and near-certain odds to make the MLB playoffs, but a piece of bad news Tuesday might put a damper on fans’ expectations.
Brandon Morrow, the Cubs’ Opening Day closer was shut down for the season due to a bone bruise in his right elbow, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters Tuesday. Morrow had made several attempts at throwing over the last few days, according the MLB.com but those attempts to move forward ultimately pushed him backwards.
#Cubs Theo says they were hopeful. "Every time he pitched, it got worse "
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 18, 2018
Brandon Morrow a big loss for the Cubs
The Cubs had signed Morrow to a two-year, $21 million contract last offseason and intended make the former journeyman their closer, and the first half of the season validated those plans. Morrow posted a 1.47 ERA in 30.2 innings before the All-Star break while racking up 22 saves and 31 strikeouts.
However, Morrow also dealt with some health issues, hitting the DL in June with a back injury, then returning to the DL in July with biceps inflammation. Morrow never reached the field again after that second injury, which soon turned into a bone bruise.
Morrow being out for the season is a major loss considering the playoffs experience from last season he brought to the Cubs. Morrow appeared in 14 of the Dodgers’ 15 playoff games during their run to the World Series, a level of usage that raised some eyebrows.
Morrow said MRIs prior to signing with Cubs didn't indicate any effects from 2017 playoff workload. "I wasn’t feeling anything like this last year and probably wasn’t feeling anything till early June or first time it popped up." pitching in 14-inning game vs. Mets was first sign.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) September 19, 2018
The loss of Morrow also leaves the Cubs bullpen in a less-than-ideal position going forward.
How the Cubs bullpen looks without Brandon Morrow
Morrow was the Cubs’ Opening Day closer, then he got hurt. He was replaced by Pedro Strop, who did very well with a 1.77 ERA and 11 saves following Morrow’s biceps injury, but then Strop also go hurt last week and is now out for at least the regular season.
That leaves the Cubs without two players who accounted for 35 of the 45 saves the team recorded this season. The Cubs will now likely go to a closer-by-committee with Jesse Chavez, Justin Wilson, Carl Edwards Jr. and Steve Cishek all possibilities to see late-game action. While all four of those players have posted a sub-3 ERA this season, it still leaves the Cubs bullpens with a significant amount of question marks just two weeks before the postseason is set to start.
Morrow returning at 100 percent and giving the Cubs a powerful closer for the postseason might have been an unreasonable hope, but it would still have been a reason to believe in a pitching staff that ranked 12th in the NL in ERA entering Tuesday.
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