“So far, so good.”
That’s how Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow described his health and preparation for the coming season on Monday. The 35-year-old is aiming to make his long-awaited return to a big-league mound, hopefully as a member of the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.
Morrow has been sidelined since July 2018 due to a series of elbow issues. The veteran right-hander underwent a debridement procedure in November 2018 and was aiming to be healthy by Opening Day 2019.
That return never came to fruition: Morrow suffered several setbacks in his rehab before the Cubs shut him down in August. He underwent a nerve decompression surgery in September and rejoined the Cubs this winter on ‘prove-it’ minor-league deal.
Morrow said he’s experiencing aches and pains but believes they’re part of his current rehab. He’s throwing a bullpen every fourth day — the Cubs don’t want to rush him back — and hopes his latest procedure does the trick.
“I hope I come back strong and I hope I come back looking just like I did before," Morrow said Monday. "That’s the goal, is to get back to exactly how I felt as a Chicago Cub in the first half of , when I was rolling and feeling good and doing what I wanted to out there.
“Just trying to get healthy and get back the way you are. The first part of it you’re not gonna feel exactly the way you did. But after time, reps, hopefully feeling like that, I can put the surgery behind me and be healthy going forward.”
The Cubs bullpen lost veterans Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop to free agency this winter, making many unheralded bullpen additions. Having a healthy Morrow in the fold — in any role — would add more certainty to the group. In 35 appearances in 2018, Morrow posted a 1.47 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, striking out 31 batters in 30 2/3 innings while converting 22 of 24 save opportunities.
The Cubs could opt to send Morrow to the minor leagues to start the season. Doing so would give him more time to build up arm strength and reacclimate himself to game action, easing him into a summertime return to the Cubs bullpen.
If he’s healthy and performing well by the end of spring training, making the Opening Day roster isn't out of the question.
“I think that if I’m one of the best eight relievers…I’ll be given a shot to compete for that,” he said. “I hope so. I can’t say for sure. I’m hopeful. The way I feel now, if I keep building on that, then I should be — I think I will be.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.