Cubs

Brandon Morrow still has work to do before returning to the Cubs

Brandon Morrow still has work to do before returning to the Cubs

The Cubs haven't given many updates on Brandon Morrow and have admitted they truly don't know when their 34-year-old closer will return to the major-league roster. And with less than a month of baseball left and no place to send Morrow on a rehab assignment, the Cubs may just have to find the right moment to let their closer get some work before the postseason begins. 

However, it doesn't seem like the Cubs feel a sense of urgency with Morrow's rehab process, as Jim Hickey mentioned on 670 the Score today, Morrow still has a few more steps before proving he is ready to handle throwing in a game. 

Morrow hasn't pitched in a game since July 15 and it's looking less and less likely the Cubs will be able to rely on him as their closer, even if he returns in time for a few outings before the postseason. The Cubs had been doing alright without Morrow up until recently with the bullpen allowing a combined nine earned runs to score against the Brewers Monday and Tuesday night. 

Optimistically speaking, the Cubs are hoping Morrow can return mid-September and throw a few times before the postseason starts, but if he has any setup backs between then and now Morrow could be left off the postseason roster. 

The Cubs are mixing up their rotation as Jon Lester nears return

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USA TODAY

The Cubs are mixing up their rotation as Jon Lester nears return

The Cubs don't actually need a fifth starter until April 27, but they're going with one anyway, handing Tyler Chatwood the ball for the finale with the Diamondbacks Easter Sunday.

Thanks to an off-day Thursday and another one on Monday, the Cubs could've gotten through until next Saturday with only a four-man rotation and everybody still working on regular rest. Thanks to last Sunday's snowout at Wrigley Field (when Chatwood was slated to start), that may have allowed them to weather the storm without needing anybody to take Jon Lester's place in the rotation after he injured his hamstring during the Cubs' home opener on April 8.

Speaking of Lester, he's doing "really well," manager Joe Maddon said Friday and the rotation's ace is close to throwing a simulated game. 

However, the Cubs are going to play matchups and roll Chatwood out on Sunday and push back Jose Quintana to face the Dodgers in the first game of that series Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

Maddon said the Cubs wanted to keep Chatwood involved and there's the added bonus of giving Quintana, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish an extra day (or two) off to help keep them fresh throughout a long season.

But there's also a matchup advantage, in that the Diamondbacks struggle more vs. righties than lefties and the Dodgers — while still a prolific offense no matter who's pitching — are a bit worse against lefties. So tossing Chatwood Sunday means the Cubs throw a trio of righties against the Diamondbacks and now line up two lefties against the Dodgers (Quintana-Hamels-Hendricks).

The Diamondbacks lead the National League in many offensive categories off lefties — including runs, homers, total bases and batting average — and are slashing .304/.349/.532 (.881 OPS) off southpaws. They're hitting only .248/.322/.436 (.758 OPS) against righties. 

The Dodgers' disparity isn't as large — .825 OPS vs. LHP, .884 OPS vs. RHP — but many of their top hitters (Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson) are left-handed and struggle against southpaws. 

As for Chatwood, he hasn't pitched since April 10, when he threw an inning of relief against the Pirates in a loss. He has walked 5 batters in 6 innings this season and his outings have never gone longer than 36 pitches, so it's fair to wonder how long he'll be able to throw in Sunday's game. 

However, he got some work in the bullpen before going out to the mound for that April 10 appearance and he threw a lot in Miami earlier this week, Maddon said. 

"He really believes he can throw 75-plus pitches, which I don't doubt," Maddon said. "It's just a matter of how tough the outs are — if the outs are tough and he has to work too hard, it can be different.

"But if he keeps throwing like he has been throwing, it's reasonable to expect at least 80 pitches. We'll just watch it and let him go and he'll let us know just by observation."

Even if Chatwood can't give the Cubs much length, this lines up well in that the bullpen had Thursday to rest and another off-day Monday to recover if they're needed to pick up the slack on Sunday.

Chatwood has not started a game since Aug. 18 last year, when he lasted just 2 innings and allowed 3 runs on 3 walks and 2 hits. 

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Have the Cubs turned the corner?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Have the Cubs turned the corner?

Hub Arkush, David Schuster and Mark Grote join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs sweep the Marlins and have won 7 of their last 10. Have they finally turned the corner?

8:00- The White Sox keep playing but the controversy surrounding Tim Anderson's bat-flip-heard-round-the-world continues. Does baseball need to lighten up or does Anderson deserve some blame?

14:30- The guys remember Chet Coppock. The "Godfather of Sports Talk Radio" died at the age of 70.

18:00- Carlos Zambrano drops by the studio. He talks to Kap about his comeback with the Chicago Dogs, his thoughts on the Cubs winning it all and his hopes to once again pitch in the majors.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: