With Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop likely out for the remainder of the season, the Cubs will have a big decision to make on who will be closing out these crucial September games, and even during the postseason.
Brandon Morrow has been out since July 15. The right-hander only pitched in 35 games this season and was accountable for 22 saves with a 1.47 ERA. During his absence, Pedro Strop stepped up as the Cubs everyday closer. Well, until this past week when Strop was hurt trying to out run a double play at first. Strop had an MRI this last week confirming he had a strained hamstring and would miss the remainder of the regular season. There has been talk that he could make a return during the Cubs last series against the Cardinals at the end of the month. It’s unfortunate since Strop was having such a good season. Strop has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the Cubs this season, eating up 59.2 innings, collecting 13 saves and posting a 2.26 ERA.
Joe Maddon still hasn’t found a replacement to fill the closer role, but he does have many options to consider as we approach postseason baseball. Maddon has to feel pretty good when he has guys like Jesse Chavez, Justin Wilson, Steve Cishek, and Carl Edwards Jr. in the fold. They’re all worthy candidates of the closer role. It helps when you’ve had guys that have been in that closer role before just as Wilson was with the Detroit Tigers in 2017. The southpaw recorded 13 saves and a 2.68 ERA with the Tigers and was later traded to the Cubs with Alex Avila for prospects. Wilson struggled with the Cubs last season, loggin a 5.09 ERA with his new club. He has stepped it up this season for sure and has been pitching with a hot hand since July.
The Cubs also have Steve Cishek who has closed for multiple teams during his career. Cishek has been the workhorse in the bullpen this season, as he has accumulated 66.0 innings with a 2.32 ERA. He would be a surprise candidate for the closer role with how many innings he has pitched already this season.
Carl Edwards Jr. will probably end up being Maddon’s guy in the ninth inning going forward. Edwards has been one of the Cubs best bullpen arms since 2016, but has had his struggles with command in the past, and as of late, but even with the command issues, he has put up some very impressive numbers this season. Joe hasn’t leaned on him as much as past seasons either. Carl is down 17 innings from last season when he pitched 66.1 innings for the Cubs, but I still think he could be the guy Joe needs at that closer role as long as he shows he can keep control.
The Cubs have a 89-64 record, with a 1.5 game lead over the Brewers, and a 4.5 lead over the Cardinals. The magic Number is down to eight with nine games left, so can the bullpen lock down and hold the division? I believe they can. Even if Joe doesn’t find a permanent closer, they have a bunch of arms with plenty of experience that can get the job done.
Morrow being out for the season stings, but lucky enough for the Cubs, they have a great bullpen that can back up the loss of their two biggest late-inning relievers.
Follow Tanner Jones on Twitter-Feature Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune
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