Brandon Morrow is the Cubs’ closer, that much we know for sure. Theo Epstein said it very clearly back in January and the sentiment has been reiterated several times since. And while sticking with a traditional usage strategy at the end of games might run counter to the progressive approach the team employs elsewhere, there’s ample logic to support the idea of going with a set closer.
But don’t you go thinking the remainder of the the bullpen will fall into some kind of static assembly line.
“Whenever Brandon’s not available, it’s not going to be, ‘It’s your turn tonight and you’re the closer,'” Maddon told reporters Friday. “I’m not going to pass up a moment in the 7th or 8th inning that’s hyper-critical to save somebody for the ninth inning. I’m not going to do that.
“There’s no ‘B’ or ‘1A.’ It’s all hands on deck. We’ll try to get through those last three outs. They all can do it.”
So I guess the Cubs are kind of going with a closer-by-committee after all. Sure, Morrow is the unquestioned choice to get the last three outs when he’s able to go, but that figures to be a little less often than what we’ve seen from Cubs closers over the last two seasons.
Due in large part to their rental status, Aroldis Chapman and Wade Davis were both ridden hard and put up wet during their time in Chicago. Morrow’s contract status, not to mention his history of arm issues, will prevent Maddon from pushing his limits throughout the regular season. We saw that in Friday’s abbreviated outing, which saw Morrow record only two outs before being lifted.
Because the closer had pitched in a minor league game the previous day, the short stint against the Brewers had been planned from the start. That will surely be the case for him as the season progresses, which means no multi-inning saves or three straight games. In fact, he may not even take the ball in back-to-back games very often.
That’s where all the other options in the bullpen will come in handy. Whether it’s Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr., or Justin Wilson, the Cubs have several pitchers with the experience and/or stuff to close games in Morrow’s stead. Which is perfect because it lets them be both traditional and progressive at the same time.
Next thing you know, we’ll be talking about bullpenning.