The Chicago Cubs released Brandon Morrow on June 30, 2020. As baseball transactions go, this one was easy to miss.

The season was on hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Morrow had not thrown a pitch in a competitive game since July 2018, sidelined by a cavalcade of injuries that threatened to derail his career.

Morrow’s next move was to get baseball off his brain. He and his family left their home in Scottsdale, away from the heat and into the mountains, so the 36-year-old pitcher could “pretend I was retired, be a dad.” He put his chances of playing again at 50-50.

Shortly thereafter, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman reached out via text message.

“I had an offer very, very early to come back,” Morrow said. “So I put my eye on it and started working out about Oct. 1, really getting after it. I hope it pays off.”

Morrow is in the Dodgers’ spring training camp as a non-roster invitee. He was in a similar place four years ago, coming off an injury-shortened 2016 season with the Padres and trying to stick with the Dodgers as a relief pitcher.

Morrow began the 2017 regular season at Triple-A, but finished the season as the primary set-up pitcher to closer Kenley Jansen. His fastball touched 100 mph regularly while no other Dodger reliever reached triple digits even once. Morrow appeared in 14 of the Dodgers’ 15 postseason games, including all seven in the World Series against the Houston Astros.

Suddenly a coveted free agent, Morrow signed a two-year, $21 million contract to be the Chicago Cubs’ closer in December 2017. He made only 35 appearances in a Cubs uniform. A lower back injury, followed by biceps inflammation, then an elbow procedure sent him down a two-year path of rehabilitation.

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Despite plenty of uncertainty, Morrow is hopeful he can stage another comeback.

“I haven’t thrown a pitch in the major leagues since – I mean, I really haven’t thrown a competitive pitch since July 2018,” he said. “I’ve faced hitters in live BP a couple times, but always had the same shutdown pain the day after. Never worked out. I’m also interested to see what those numbers are going to look like once I start to face hitters.

“To my eyes, to my feel, everything is on track. Whether I get back to throwing 100 miles an hour, I don’t know. I’m four years older than I was at that time. We’ll see. So far I feel good.”

Camelback Ranch is a logical place for Morrow to be. He gained the confidence of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts long ago, so his early bullpen sessions – his first was Friday, his next is Monday – are relatively low-stakes affairs.

“Obviously very familiar with him, what he can do in a big spot, the dependability,” Roberts said. “He’s healthy. … It was a great first day for him, as far as what I hear from the training room and Brandon himself.”



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