They say the sun will come out tomorrow, but will the Cubs closer? … God that was so awful. I’m sorry.
But the point does stand: no one is quite sure when/if Cubs closer Brandon Morrow will be able to return to the big league team and pitch competitively. Morrow is working his way back from a biceps issue/bone bruise/stress reaction in his elbow that has had him on the shelf since mid-July. Although he threw off the mound several weeks ago – and no one publicly said a word about any kind of setback – he hasn’t been back on the mound since.
Morrow still has yet to throw off a mound. #Cubs Maddon: "He's still progressing. He's feeling better. I know he's optimistic about getting back and I am, too. No regression. Everything's been positive."
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 4, 2018
Even if the Cubs aren’t hiding any kind of setback – and I don’t necessarily believe they are, so don’t misread me – it might be very difficult to predict exactly how and when Morrow will be able to compete at a high enough level to come back. Consider that the things he’s trying to get over mostly just need rest and time. But to pitch for the Cubs in the heat of a playoff race and then on into the playoffs, Morrow needs to ramp back up. Quickly and soon.
Those directives are at odds right now, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to project a return for Morrow that comes any sooner than late in the month, at best.
Brandon Morrow has played long toss from 120 feet as he builds arm strength. He would then need to throw a few bullpen sessions and at least one simulated game before appearing in a game for the #Cubs, Jim Hickey says.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) September 5, 2018
So, let’s get really generous and say Morrow throws off the mound TODAY (we have not been given any indication that this is something that’s actually happening – I mean, maybe, I guess – but this is just to illustrate). And let’s also get really generous and say he is able to throw his bullpen sessions and then simulated game all with just one rest day in between. And let’s also assume he needs just two bullpen sessions, not three. That would have him throwing bullpens on September 5 and September 7, with the simulated game on the 9th. Then he’d be able to return around the 11th.
But that’s if you’re being EXTREMELY generous with your timeline. What if we’re less generous? Let’s say Morrow doesn’t throw his first bullpen until this weekend, and isn’t able to do all of them with jut a single day of rest. Then you might be looking at September 9, September 12, and September 15 for his bullpens, and September 18 for his simulated game. On that schedule, he might not be able to be back with the Cubs until September 21 or later, when there are just 10 games left in the season.
That window between September 11 and September 21 is probably when you could realistically hope to see Morrow back with the big league team if everything goes well from here. Yeah, that’s a relatively large window this time of year, but there’s a lot of uncertainty here.
One mildly positive signal is that the Cubs have not opted to put Morrow on the 60-day DL, which would require him to be out until September 15, instead opting for other methods of creating 40-man roster space for the various call-ups. Does that mean the Cubs are holding out hope he can return before the 15th? Maybe so. But with every day that goes by and he doesn’t get back on the mound, that hope is probably slipping away.
At this point, to be honest, I’m just hoping he gets back in enough time to have like three outings to show where he is physically before the playoffs, so that the Cubs can make an informed decision about the playoff roster.