Cubs

What should Brandon Morrow's role be in Cubs 2019 bullpen?

What should Brandon Morrow's role be in Cubs 2019 bullpen?

Since the Cubs' early exit from the postseason, many have turned their attention to the 2019 roster and wonder if Brandon Morrow will be the team's closer next year.

However, the question isn't WILL Morrow be the closer, but rather — SHOULD he be counted on as the main ninth-inning option?

Morrow didn't throw a single pitch for the Cubs after the All-Star Game, nursing a bone bruise in his forearm that did not heal in time to allow him to make a return down the stretch.

Of course, an injury isn't surprising given Morrow's lengthy history of arm issues. 

Consider: Even with a half-season spent on the DL, Morrow's 35 appearances in 2018 was his second-highest total since 2008 (though he also spent a ton of time as a starting pitcher from 2009-15).

Morrow is 34 now and has managed to throw just 211 innings in 126 games since the start of the 2013 season. 

Because of that, Theo Epstein isn't ready to anoint Morrow the Cubs' 2019 closer despite success in the role in his first year in Chicago (22-for-24 in save chances).

"[We're] very comfortable with Morrow as part of a deep and talented 'pen," Epstein said. "We have to recommit to him in a very structured role and stick with it to do our best to keep him healthy. Set some rules and adhere to them and build a 'pen around that. I'm comfortable."

Epstein is referencing the overuse the Cubs have pointed to for the origin of Morrow's bone bruise when he worked three straight games from May 31-June 2 during a stretch of four appearances in five days.

Joe Maddon and the Cubs were very cautious with Morrow early in the year, unleashing him for only three outings — and 2 innings — in the first two-plus weeks of the season, rarely using him even on back-to-back days.

During that late-May/early-June stretch, Morrow also three just 2 pitches in one outing (May 31) and was only called upon for the 14th inning June 2 when Maddon had already emptied the rest of the Cubs bullpen in a 7-1 extra-inning victory in New York.

The blame or origin of Morrow's bone bruise hardly matters now. All the Cubs can do at this moment is try to learn from it and carry those lessons into 2019. It sounds like they have, heading into Year 2 of a two-year, $21 million deal that also includes a team option for 2020.

"It's the type of injury you can fully recover from with rest," Epstein said. "that said, he has an injury history and we knew that going in. That was part of the calculation when we signed him and that's why it was the length it was and the amount of money it was, given his talent and everything else.

"We were riding pretty high with him for a few months and then we didn't have him for the second half of the season. And again, that's on me. We took an educated gamble on him there and on the 'pen overall, thinking that even if he did get hurt, we had enough talent to cover for it. And look, it was a really good year in the 'pen and he contributed to that greatly in the first half.

"They key is to keep him healthy as much as possible and especially target it for down the stretch and into what we hope will be a full month of October next year."

It's clear the Cubs will be even more cautious with Morrow in 2019, though he also should head into the new campaign with significantly more rest than he received last fall when he appeared in all seven games of the World Series out of the Dodgers bullpen.

Morrow has more than proven his value in this Cubs bullpen as a low-maintenance option when he's on the field who goes right after hitters and permits very few walks or home runs. 

But if the Cubs are going to keep him healthy for the most important time of the season in September and October, they'll need to once again pack the bullpen with at least 7 other arms besides Morrow, affording Maddon plenty of options.

When he is healthy, Morrow will probably get a ton of the closing opportunities, but the world has also seen what Pedro Strop can do in that role and the Cubs will likely add another arm or two this winter for high-leverage situations.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Top story lines for 2019

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Top story lines for 2019

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss the biggest storylines for the Cubs heading into the 2019 season.

01:00 - Predictions for the rest of the 2019 off-season

03:00 - Are the Cubs falling behind in the NL Central?

06:30 - The need for a veteran catcher to play behind Willson Contreras

08:00 - Lack of long-term contracts being handed out this off-season

10:30 - Will Kyle Schwarber reach his potential?

14:45 - What will David Bote's role be in 2019?

17:45 - Will the new coaching staff make a difference in 2019?

21:30 - Where does Ian Happ fit into the Cubs plan

25:00 - Will Joe ever settle on 3 outfielders to get almost all of the playing time?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

NBC Sports Chicago to carry expanded, multi-platform 2019 Cubs Convention coverage

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AP

NBC Sports Chicago to carry expanded, multi-platform 2019 Cubs Convention coverage

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO TO CARRY EXPANDED, MULTI-PLATFORM “2019 CUBS CONVENTION”

OPENING NIGHT COVERAGE THIS FRIDAY, JANUARY 18 BEGINNING at 5:00 PM CT

 

 

5:00 PM -- Special edition of “SportsTalk Live” from Cubs Convention –

Hosted by David Kaplan, featuring NBC Sports Chicago Cubs beat reporter Kelly Crull, a panel of Cubs experts, and Cubs players!

 

6:00 PM -- LIVE Cubs Convention “Opening Ceremonies” coverage –

Hosted by Kaplan, featuring Crull and additional Cubs experts, along with live interviews with numerous Cubs players, coaches, and front office execs!

 

7:30 PM -- Exclusively on Facebook Live -- “Friday Night with Ryan Dempster” –

Hosted by the former Cubs fan favorite featuring numerous interviews/variety show antics with current Cubs players!

 

NBC Sports Chicago live stream available 24/7 on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the new “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app!

 

Complete Cubs Convention coverage throughout the weekend on NBCSportsChicago.com’s ‘CubsTalk’ section via reports from Kaplan, Crull and Cubs digital reporter Tony Andracki,

which will include even more player/coaches/front office interviews, along with panel discussion highlights and much more!

 

Social media highlights on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to include the latest Convention news, live streaming segments, and special NBC Sports Chicago prize giveaway details! 

 

 

Chicago, IL (January 15, 2019) – NBC Sports Chicago - THE Home of the #Authentic Fan - is ready to start up the highly-anticipated 2019 MLB season in a big way with expanded, live Opening Night multi-platform coverage of the “2019 Cubs Convention,” which will be held in downtown Chicago this weekend (January 18-20) at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

 

On Friday, January 18 beginning at 5:00 PM CT, NBC Sports Chicago’s live coverage of the 2019 Cubs Convention begins with a special remote edition of SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado, which will take place on the floor of the convention center.  This special edition of SportsTalk Live will feature host David Kaplan, along with NBC Sports Chicago Cubs beat reporter Kelly Crull and a panel of Cubs experts discussing last year’s 95-win regular season and brief postseason run, all the off-season moves and acquisitions, along with the key factors needed to bring World Series title back to the northside in 2019.  In addition, special guest interviews with Cubs players are also scheduled during the one-hour show.

 

Then, at 6:00 PM, viewers can look forward to every thrill-packed moment of the convention’s Opening Ceremonies featuring live introductions of Cubs players/coaches/front office executives, video montages, and much more.  NBC Sports Chicago’s 2019 Cubs Convention Opening Ceremonies coverage will be hosted by Cubs Pre/Post Game Live host David Kaplan, featuring beat reporter Kelly Crull, along with live interviews with Cubs players, coaches, and team VIPs.  NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago’s coverage of the Opening Ceremonies will be available via live stream at NBCSportsChicago.com and via the new MyTeams by NBC Sports app available on iOS and Android devices, at no cost, to fans anywhere in the U.S. and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.  In addition, coverage of the Opening Ceremonies can be accessed at NBC Sports Chicago’s “Facebook Live” page (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago). 

 

ALSO -- Fans are also in for a special treat at 7:30 PM as NBC Sports Chicago will provide fans with a “Facebook Live” (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) exclusive presentation of Friday Night with Ryan Dempster, a Cubs Convention primetime special featuring the animated former Cubs fan favorite hosting his own talk/variety show showcasing Cubs players/coaches/front office execs in this fun and entertaining live event. 

 

Throughout the weekend, fans can look forward to even more comprehensive Cubs Convention coverage on NBCSportsChicago.com’s CubsTalk section (NBCSportsChicago.com/Cubs) featuring additional players/coaches/front office executive interviews, feature stories, fan reaction, photos, videos and much more provided via Kaplan (@thekapman), Crull (@Kelly_Crull), NBCSportsChicago.com Cubs digital baseball reporter Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23), along the NBC Sports Chicago team of behind-the-scenes Cubs experts (@NBCSCubs). 

 

From a social media standpoint, NBC Sports Chicago will also deliver a number of additional on-site Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) interviews and special segments throughout the weekend, along with numerous Cubs Convention “Sights & Sounds” highlights via ‘NBCSChicago’ on Instagram and Instagram Stories. 

 

Plus, Cubs fans can look forward to a brand new “CubsTalk” Podcast presented by Wintrust featuring the hottest Cubs Convention topics and special guest interviews. Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.

 

Fans attending Cubs Convention this weekend can also stop by NBC Sports Chicago’s “Authentic Fan” booth, which will feature a number of special “Authentic Fan” Cubs-themed giveaways including knit winter hats, recyclable tote bags, team flags, stickers and much more (while supplies last).  Plus, fans can are urged to utilize the social media hashtag #AuthenticFan throughout the weekend as a number of lucky fans will be “authentically surprised” with special Cubs giveaways and experiences. NBC Sports Chicago’s dedicated Cubs Twitter handle (@NBCSCubs) will also provide up-to-the-minute NBC Sports Chicago “Authentic Fan” booth activities throughout the weekend.