The Cubs officially lost their closer Brandon Morrow to the 10-day disabled list a week ago, though, since he hadn’t pitched for three days already at that point, he is eligible to return today.
With emergency pants protocols in place, hopefully Morrow will be able to keep his back in good shape and avoid the DL the rest of the way. Because there’s no question that the Cubs are much, much better when they have him in tow.
In his first season with the Cubs, the 33-year-old closer has saved 16 games over 26 appearances and 22.2 innings. He has a 1.59 ERA, a 27.5 % strikeout rate, and a 9.9% walk rate. And, perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t give us terrible bouts of heartburn when he’s out there. Generally speaking, Morrow comes in pumping, and the game ends soon thereafter without a lot of freaking out.
The Cubs may have Morrow available again for tonight’s game – a homecoming of sorts for the former Dodger – and that’d be great for more than just Morrow. The team, his bullpen-mates, and his manager will all be eager to welcome him back.
Morrow’s return isn’t just about having a great closer available for the 9th inning, and it isn’t even just about bumping everyone else back an inning and thus improving the overall quality of the bullpen (though that’s certainly going to happen).
It’s also about putting Joe Maddon in a much better position to put his relievers in the best position to succeed.
Consider that, in games where it looks like the Cubs may have a lead come the 9th inning, Maddon currently has to do his best to project which of his late-inning relievers will match up best in that inning, and therefore which ones he can and cannot use when things get hot in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings. But with Morrow back and locked into that 9th inning role, Maddon can much more fluidly use whomever he wants in whatever situation in those earlier innings if it looks like things are about to get thorny.
I look forward to the roster move later today. Fingers crossed.