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Cubs' Morrow has elbow surgery, likely to start season late

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CHICAGO (AP) — Closer Brandon Morrow likely will miss the start of the season for the Chicago Cubs following arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last month.

Chicago president of baseball operations Theo Epstein revealed Thursday that Morrow’s operation took place on Nov. 6. The Cubs waited to make an announcement because Morrow’s recovery will impact how they fill out the bullpen.

“That’s why we weren’t broadcasting it,” a smiling Epstein said. “We’ll have to set things up a little bit differently the first few weeks of the season. And it kind of underscores the need for depth and late-game options early in the year. I think for him, it will be a positive. It will completely address the issues that were bothering him last year. … It can really help him be strong late in the season as well.”

Chicago also hired Tommy Hottovy as pitching coach to replace the departed Jim Hickey.

Morrow led Chicago with 22 saves and had a 1.47 ERA in 35 games after signing a $21 million, two-year contract as a free agent. His final appearance was on July 15, with the Cubs ultimately shutting him down because of a bone bruise in his right elbow.

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Epstein said Morrow still felt discomfort, leading to the decision for surgery. Morrow is expected to start throwing in early February. Epstein said the surgery was similar to the procedure Yu Darvish had on his right elbow in September.

Darvish “looks strong, looks healthy” and is “exactly where he should be in his progression,” according to Epstein. The Cubs expect Darvish to start throwing in a few weeks, another big step after a disappointing first season in Chicago. Darvish went 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA in eight starts after signing a $126 million, six-year contract.

Epstein said Kris Bryant is “progressing without limitations” after making two trips to the disabled list because of inflammation in his left shoulder, and Javier Baez will start next season at shortstop while Addison Russell continues to serve a 40-game domestic violence suspension.

About that suspension, Epstein said “it’s appropriate” for fans to “hold us accountable for our words and to make sure that those translate into actions.”

“I can just tell you that we are certainly intent on it,” he said, citing the Cubs’ increased training and work in the community.

As for Hottovy, he joined the organization in 2015 as a major league scouting coordinator and has spent the past four seasons assisting pitchers and formulating game plans with the coaching staff. He made a combined 17 relief appearances with Boston in 2011 and 2012.

Chicago ranked third in the majors last season with a 3.65 team ERA. The Cubs went 95-68 and lost to Colorado in the NL wild-card game.

Hickey left after one season. Hitting coach Chili Davis was fired after one season and replaced by Anthony Iapoce.

Chicago hired Terrmel Sledge as assistant hitting coach on Thursday after he spent the past two seasons working in the Dodgers’ organization. The Cubs expanded Mike Borzello’s duties, making him associate pitching coach in addition to catching and strategy coach. And they added former major league outfielder Chris Denorfia to manager Joe Maddon’s staff. Denorfia joined the front office a year ago as a special assistant to the president and general manager.

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