Brandon Morrow to Throw on the Mound on Sunday, But His Return Picture Is Really Complicated

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Brandon Morrow to Throw on the Mound on Sunday, But His Return Picture Is Really Complicated

Chicago Cubs

Usually when we’re updated with information on a particular player’s rehab, we can get a sense of whether, you know, the news is overall good or bad. Sometimes, it’s a bit of both, of course, but even then we can usually still separate the wins from the loses. Today, however, the Brandon Morrow update is more like a jumbled mess of I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-this news, because, well, you’ll see.

As you know, Cubs closer Brandon Morrow (biceps inflammation, bone bruise, stress reaction) has been out of action since the middle of July, and, aside from an apparently-not-perfect bullpen session on August 18th, hasn’t even thrown off the mound since then. Pedro Stop has filled in quite admirably in his absence, but he looks even better in his usual, setup role with Morrow behind him – especially with the postseason coming up. So … where we at?

The decidedly good news today is that Brandon Morrow is throwing a bullpen session this Sunday, which will be, again, his first since the middle of August. Assuming it all goes well (again, it apparently didn’t last time, so …) Morrow is planning on tossing either another bullpen session after that or (apparently, not and) a simulated game, before rejoining the active roster on September 16th or 17th. “We have a date for when I would be returning and I’m trying to get there,” Morrow said, per NBC. “[Sunday’s bullpen] will tell me a lot and then everything from there on out will be towards returning hopefully on the 16th or 17th.”

I wish we could stop right there, because that is all really good news. It’s a bummer that there’s no time for a Minor League rehab assignment – note that Morrow regretted that as well – but typically, if we were really getting Morrow back with two-three weeks left before the playoffs, we’d be absolutely ecstatic.

But it’s not quite typical.

For one, minor issue: without a minor leauge rehab start, Morrow’s first couple outings in the big leagues would have to be scripted, “like 15 pitches in a low leverage situation,” is how Tony Andracki (NBC) puts it. Obviously, getting him back for October is the primary concern, so, like, who cares if those innings are “scripted,” but it’s not as though the Cubs have a ton of low leverage innings right now. In fact, they were a couple bounces away from just a 2.0 game lead over the Brewers earlier this very week. You want Morrow back and ready for October, but not if he costs the Cubs games in the meantime (who knows if there’ll be enough low leverage moments, or if he won’t get crushed in whatever situation he’s called upon).

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

On top of that, what was originally dubbed a biceps issue has obviously evolved into so much more than that. And according to Morrow, the healing time for this injury is tough to project: “It’s just hard to predict what to expect when you don’t see a lot of bone bruises in forearms. Today feels good. There was a day last week that was a little sore and achy, so took a day off. It’s good right now. I don’t know how it’ll be when I’m throwing it 98 mph, but I’m gonna try.”

Indeed, Morrow was feeling sore as recently as last week and even later added that “there’s a little bit of ache in there,” before conceding that the ache wasn’t “taking strength away.”

And there’s just one more piece to this puzzle. At the Athletic, Patrick Mooney asked if the Cubs as an organization will allow Morrow to pitch through discomfort, as some players are known to do at the most important times of the year. Joe Maddon’s response: “It’s just going to depend. He knows how he feels. You’ll see the gun readings and the effectiveness. Now can you pitch well by pitching in discomfort? I have no idea. It’s just something we’ll have to evaluate as we go along.”

Meanwhile, Morrow said that he’s hoping it holds up just enough and “doesn’t hurt too bad,” so that he can pitch through it. “I don’t know where the pain’s going to plateau or how many outings it’s going to take to get to where I can’t throw through it anymore or whatever.” Well, then.

So know you see why this is more complicated than it seems from the surface. From 10,000 feet, it sounds like the Cubs are getting their closer back in a little over a week, with a little over two weeks before the start of the postseason. But in reality, that pitcher felt soreness last week, still has some aches and pains, has no time for a rehab start, and will, at best, be forced to throw scripted innings in the middle of a pennant race. Oh, and on top of that, he might just be doing all of this while pitching through discomfort, and the best case scenario may be to get as much out of him as possible before he inevitably “can’t throw through it anymore.”

That’s a lot to digest, and it may not get clearer even after he throws on Sunday. But that’ll be a start, I suppose.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami