April 28, 2018

The symbolism is undeniable.

When Brandon Morrow first walked out to the Imagine Dragons song "Whatever It Takes" at Wrigley Field, I couldn't help but think how it was the perfect song.

The 33-year-old pitcher has done whatever it takes to stick around in his career, withstanding injury after injury to reinvent himself from a top starter to one of the more dynamic relief pitchers in the game.

Morrow is the man the Cubs tabbed to replace Wade Davis, who set records as the Chicago closer in 2017 and then showed his "big balls" in the postseason.

The move has worked out just fine in the first month of the season, with Morrow yet to give up a run and going 6-for-6 in save opportunities. (He did, however, allow an inherited runner to score in that 17-inning marathon in the second game of the season in Miami.)

But Morrow's greatest impact may not even be when he pitches.

Carl Edwards Jr. has looked absolutely dominant as Morrow's main setup man and earlier in the season, the young right-hander credited the Cubs veteran pitchers with helping him fully realize the need to attack hitters.

[READ: Carl Edwards Jr., self-actualized]

Edwards has had issues in the past in getting too fine with his pitches instead of going right after guys with his A+ stuff.


"He's been awesome," Morrow said of Edwards. "Talking about it all spring — attacking. You see when he puts guys on the defensive what he can do. It's impressive.

"His shit's great and when he throws it in the strike zone, they really have no chance."

Edwards and Morrow set down the Brewers in the first two games of this weekend series, working the eighth and ninth inning, respectively, in one-run Cubs victories. 

On the season, they've combined to allow just 1 run and 13 hits in 21.2 innings with 30 strikeouts.

"They've been outstanding," Maddon said. "The thing with those two guys is let's not overuse them right now. It's early. You want to make sure they're frisky all year long.

"They've been really good. Morrow, this is his first taste of doing this thing. I love the look. He comes out there and he's focused, man, and he's got the look. I like that a lot. I think that the way he's doing it rubs off on the guys in front of him."

Morrow throws 98 mph like it's nothing — "I just make it look easy," he quipped — and said he's actually still felt rusty to begin the season before a shutdown inning Friday was the best he's felt his stuff play.

When the weather starts heating up, watch out.

"A well-located fastball — regardless of speed — is always weapon No. 1," Morrow said. "I try and spot the fastball and put them on the defensive by attacking and getting them into swing mode and you'll see some swings out of the zone. You can get ahead and then dictate pretty much whatever you want."

That mindset has worked for Morrow the last few years, as he's walked just 15 batters in 68.2 innings as a reliever since the start of the 2016 season.

He's always had strikeout stuff, even leading the league in K/9 in 2010 (10.2) while working as a starter with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The thing with Morrow has always been health. He appeared in 45 regular-season games with the Dodgers in 2017, the first time since 2012 he's pitched in at least 20 games in a year.

The Cubs definitely want to be cautious of him moving forward, especially after he appeared in all 7 World Series games last fall and pitched in 14 of the Dodgers' 15 postseason games.

Maddon is certainly glad to be on the same side as Morrow now.

"He might've thrown the best game I've ever seen that was not a no-hitter against us in Toronto a couple years ago," Maddon said, referring to his time as the Tampa Bay Rays manager. "... He's different in all the best ways. His stuff is that good.

"Combine that with the way he goes about his business and it's kind of interesting to watch."