In a procedural move today to open a 40-man roster spot for Addison Russell, the Cubs moved reliever Brandon Morrow to the 60-day Injured List.
Back in February, it would have really been a jarring and sucky revelation that Morrow was going to be on the 60-day IL this year, but after a setback late in his ramp-up, we’ve known for a couple weeks now that there was zero chance he’d be back at the big league level earlier than 60 days from Opening Day.
Morrow, 34, was brilliant in the first half for the Cubs last year after signing as a free agent, but a myriad of arm issues – biceps inflammation, stress reaction in the elbow, bone bruise – ended his season in July, and then November arthroscopic arm surgery meant he was going to miss the start of the year. From there, he was ramping up reasonably well – as far as we know – at the end of Spring Training, with an eye toward a big league return in late April or early May. But he started to feel pain after a throwing session two weeks ago, and was shut down.
Fortunately, there was no new structural problem and no return of the stress reaction in the elbow (it’s a precursor to a stress fracture, and healing can take a very long time). Less fortunately, Morrow indicated that the pain he felt was very similar to the stress reaction, and with his long history of arm issues, a timely return – or any return – is far from a guarantee.
In an effort to help Morrow achieve that return, he’s received a lubricating injection in his elbow, and that’ll have him shut down for at least two more weeks before he can start to throw again. From there, it’s really anyone’s guess whether his build-up and rehab will go smoothly enough for him to return to the big leagues and contribute meaningfully in the second half.
As Theo Epstein told the Sun-Times, “I think Morrow will come back. Obviously, there’s a risk. There’s a risk with his injury history and things that have happened even here. But we’re hopeful that he’ll help us [this summer].”
If everything went absolutely perfectly, Morrow would be down for two more weeks, then he’s have a ramp-up period of, let’s say, a month before facing hitters. Then, a couple weeks of facing hitters before heading out on a minor league rehab stint of another two weeks. So you’re talking about maybe two and a half months before he could return if things go well, which would push it right up to the All-Star break.
I reckon in a dream world, the Cubs would love to have Morrow back just after the All-Star break so they would have a couple weeks to evaluate him at the big league level in advance of the Trade Deadline. Of course, even if he looks fantastic at that point, could they really use that as a basis to not make a move they would otherwise make? Probably not. But still, you’d like to have at least some sense of what you might have in Morrow before proceeding with deadline deals.
Hey, maybe the Cubs get a great first half from him last year, and a great second half from him this year!