Can the Chicago Cubs thrive with a dangerously shorthanded bullpen?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs have no solid answers in the ninth inning

The Cubs came into the 2019 campaign knowing full well they’d be without the guy who was supposed to hold down the closer’s job in Brandon Morrow. He missed the entire second half of last year and went under the knife this offseason.

The latest update has Morrow out until at least July, meaning by the time he comes back, it could very well have been a full calendar year since he pitched in a big league game. There’s little concern over what he’s capable of when healthy. The problem is just that – he’s never healthy, at least not with any degree of regularity.

"“The bounceback after the last time out wasn’t as good, so we gotta back off him once again and just slow things down,” Maddon told NBC Sports Chicago in mid-April. “It’s just where he’s at. It’s not unlike what had been going on earlier."

Knowing that, the ninth-inning job fell to Pedro Strop, who filled in admirably for Morrow last year, recording a 1.42 ERA and 3.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the ninth inning down the stretch. After suffering a late-season hamstring injury that cost him the rest of the regular season, the right-hander returned in the team’s Wild Card game loss to thet Colorado Rockies.

This year, he’s had some rocky outings, to say the least. Strop has blown a pair of saves and is headed to the IL with another hamstring issue. He’ll take his 5.06 ERA and 4.2 BB/9 with him, hoping that full health helps get him back on track for a sixth consecutive sub-3.00 ERA season.