(670 The Score) In Arizona on Tuesday night, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein ran into Wade Davis at dinner. As the closer, Davis was a key part of the 2017 team before signing with the Rockies this offseason, leaving a void for the Cubs.
As a parting gift from the Cubs, Epstein picked up the tab for Davis as a sign of appreciation for his clutch performances late in games last season. While many wonder whether the Cubs can replace what they lost with Davis, there’s no doubt for Epstein.
“Brandon Morrow is the closer,” Epstein said on the Mully & Hanley Show on Wednesday. “We think he’s just got electric stuff. He’s at a point in his career where he’s figured it out. It’s all about health for him.”
Morrow, 33, was signed by the Cubs to a two-year, $21-million deal in December, which added to the team’s back end of the bullpen. When Davis signed with the Rockies later in December on a three-year, $52-million deal — a record average annual value for relievers — it became clear Morrow would be the Cubs’ new closer.
Like Davis, Morrow became a reliever after dealing with inconsistencies and injuries as a starter. He suffered biceps tendinitis and an abdominal strain in 2012, dealt with a radial nerve entrapment to his throwing arm in 2013, had a torn tendon sheath to his index finger in 2014 and underwent surgery on his right shoulder in 2015.
In 2017, Morrow registered a 2.06 ERA in 43 2/3 innings across 45 appearances for the Dodgers. After earning the faith of Epstein, the Cubs plan to work carefully with Morrow.
“The best way to keep Morrow healthy is to do what we did with Davis, and that’s keep him in a structured closing role,” Epstein said. “Unless things go haywire during the regular season, I think you’re most likely to see him only pitch one inning at a time.
“We don’t see a closer controversy. We don’t see bullpen by committee. We think we’ve got a really good bullpen, and Morrow’s the closer.”