Cubs' Morrow still optimistic about 2019 return

Jesse RogersESPN Staff Writer2 Minute Read

CHICAGO -- With under two months left in the regular season, Chicago Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow is still hopeful he can contribute to his team's playoff push as he continues his long recovery from elbow and forearm issues.

Morrow, 35, hasn't pitched in the big leagues since before last year's All-Star break, experiencing several starts and stops in his rehab process.

"I faced hitters just last week, so I'm pretty built up," Morrow said via text on Friday. "I've thrown the last two days and should be back on the mound early next week."

Morrow has been rehabbing at the Cubs' spring facility in Arizona and recently underwent yet another procedure after being diagnosed with radial tunnel syndrome (compressed nerve).

"On Monday, I had that nerve decompressed via hydrodissection," the right-hander said. "It took away all the aches and pain I was feeling in my elbow and forearm."

Morrow was signed to a two-year, $21 million deal before the start of the 2018 season and saved 22 of 24 games during the first half that season. But his velocity took a huge dip in his final outing before the All-Star break and he hasn't pitched in the majors since.

He had minor offseason elbow surgery, then a Synvisc injection in late April, a procedure typically done on an athlete's knee.

Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow hasn't pitched in the majors since before last year's All-Star break because of elbow and forearm injuries.David Zalubowski/AP

"That will lubricate and help to protect the area around my elbow," Morrow explained at the time.

It set his recovery back but now things are finally progressing again. The Cubs could use all the help they can get in the bullpen, even though Morrow has been replaced as the closer after the team signed Craig Kimbrel to a multiyear deal in June.

Chicago's pitching staff has a save percentage of 56 this season, near the bottom of the National League. Morrow would fit in nicely as a setup man, as the team has had issues just getting to the ninth inning with a lead.

Although optimistic, Morrow has no stated timeline yet.

"With the way I'm feeling, I expect to progress quickly," he said.

Things will have to move fast, as the Cubs have just 53 games left after their 6-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, drawing them to within a half-game of first place in the NL Central. A September return for Morrow, as well as veteran Ben Zobrist, could give the team a huge boost.

"I guess not more than a month away from being back," Morrow said.

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