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Despite another setback, Cubs remain hopeful on Brandon Morrow

4 years agoTony Andracki

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs — like most teams — already had a lot of questions about the bullpen entering camp and now have another concern to add to the list.

Veteran reliever Brandon Morrow will be sidelined for at least a few days with a mild strain in his upper right chest, sustained during his last bullpen session on Friday.

Morrow was already a longshot for the Opening Day roster after missing the last year-and-a-half with a lingering forearm issue. The good news is his forearm/elbow has held up fine, but the chest strain is a new issue to add to the long list of injuries in Morrow’s career.

“It’s tough,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Sunday. “He wants to be out there, no question. It’s just a process for him, getting him back to feeling like himself. Part of that is, there’s gonna be bumps in the road. There absolutely is.

“Getting Brandon Morrow at any time in the year is beneficial for us, whether it’s Opening Day or it’s mid-June or it’s September. I think right now, the process is just getting him feeling comfortable and continue his progression and know that there’s gonna be bumps in the road.”

Hottovy’s emphasis on getting Morrow “any time of the year” reflects the Cubs’ mindset on the matter: Any contribution from the 35-year-old right-hander would be a plus for the 2020 team.

Morrow has been a dynamic reliever when healthy, including a 1.47 ERA and 22 saves in a half-season with the Cubs in 2018. He also served as the Dodgers’ most trusted bullpen arm in their 2017 World Series run, pitching in all seven games of the Fall Classic loss to an Astros team that was stealing signs.

Given Morrow’s lengthy injury history and how little he’s pitched lately, expectations have to be tempered for how much of an impact he could make in this Cubs bullpen. He was bound to be on some sort of an innings limit this season even before this mild chest strain, so it’s not a major setback. It’s also unknown when Morrow would’ve been cleared for back-to-back outings before this latest issue, which further limited his potential to make the Opening Day bullpen.

The Cubs have a long list of names that are vying for the remaining seven bullpen spots ahead of closer Craig Kimbrel, so they have plenty of options to fill out the roster in the early part of the season.

But the hope remains that Morrow can return at some point this summer and contribute down the stretch.

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