MESA, Ariz. — Brandon Morrow pitched in every game of the World Series.
Is that "high leverage" enough for you?
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Morrow will be the Cubs' new closer on Opening Day, the team's fourth in as many seasons. Wade Davis was sensational in 2017, living up to the hype of being one of baseball's best relievers by converting 32 of his 33 save opportunities, being selected as the Cubs' lone representative at the All-Star Game and striking out Bryce Harper to send the Cubs to their third straight National League Championship Series. But he got a record-setting contract from the Colorado Rockies, meaning Morrow is now the guy on the North Side.
It's not like Morrow is some consolation prize, though. He was terrific as a late-inning man for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and logged some really important innings during the playoff run that went all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. Morrow turned in a 2.06 ERA during the regular season, then he shut down the Cubs in the NLCS and pitched in all seven games of that epic Fall Classic against the Houston Astros.
It wasn't all pretty, of course. He gave up four runs and two homers without recording an out in that bonkers Game 5. But in his six other outings, he surrendered just one run on four hits over 5.1 innings of work.
No, he hasn't been a go-to closer in a decade. But he's pitched in plenty of important moments and is ready to take on the bullpen's most high-profile role.
"I've closed before. It's been 10 years, but there's so many different places to pull experience from. And I think all the playoff experience last year helps a lot in pressure situations," Morrow said Wednesday at Cubs camp. "That was something that I didn't have before. I pitched in almost every other situation besides a playoff situation and World Series games and coming in with bases loaded, two outs in the World Series and everything like that. I've pretty much seen it all.
"You'll see somebody that is pretty even-keeled. Ups and downs don't really get to me. I'll be out there competing on a daily basis."
Last year was Morrow's lone campaign with the Dodgers after spending his first 10 big league seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres. But that was his first postseason, and those experiences pitching for a World Series contender were mighty valuable. Not only did he pitch — and succeed — on the game's biggest and brightest stage, he also got into a closer's mentality, looking at the eighth inning like it was the ninth ahead of the virtual lock of a scoreless frame from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, one of the league's best.
"I was treating it like I was pitching in the ninth last year," Morrow said. "From a mindset point of view, you've got Kenley behind you, if you get through the eighth, the game's basically over. He's one of the best. So I was thinking, 'If I close out the eighth, we've got Kenley in there and finish it off.' That kind of mindset, trying to prepare myself that way.
"In the playoffs, maybe there's that little bit of butterflies at first, and then it's just baseball at a high level. I think those games definitely prepare you for some tough spots throughout the regular season that you can pull experience from and know that you can keep yourself calm. Over the last 10 years, I've kind of seen it all. I've got a much lower heart rate than I used to."
According to Morrow, the Cubs pitched an important role to him when they signed him, not yet guaranteeing the closer's role should Davis have decided to return to the North Side. But that job is Morrow's now.
If you're still not sold on Morrow as a Davis successor, allow Carl Edwards Jr. to calm your fears with this ringing endorsement.
"Morrow's a great guy. I talked to him, and it's kind of like me talking to Wade Davis all over again," Edwards said. "I'm just looking forward to getting to pick his brain."
Despite a lack of recent closing experience, Morrow was one of the biggest names on the relief-pitching market this winter. Just like they did with Morrow's teammate in Los Angeles, Yu Darvish, the Cubs made the splash they needed to accomplish the only goal that matters these days: winning the World Series. And while Morrow, and Darvish for that matter, didn't do that last season, they came darn close. They've been on that stage, like the rest of these Cubs who won it all in 2016.
For a team seeking championships, that experience is invaluable.
"That was one of the things in free agency that I was looking forward to was 'Are we going to compete?' And obviously the Chicago Cubs are in that small group of teams that you think have a really good chance to win a World Series," Morrow said.
"I'm sure that's high on their list, guys with experience in those situations and guys that have shown that they can handle the pressure and continue to throw strikes and compete."
Playoff tradition? Sign Morrow up. Bullpen dancing? Maybe not so much.
"I keep getting asked that," he said about those post-homer dance parties under the left-field bleachers. "Is that going to continue?
"I might be the awkward one in the corner just bobbing my head."