Pirates sticking with Mark Melancon at closer despite 8.53 ERA, drop in velocity

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Mark Melancon is throwing slower and throwing worse, but manager Clint Hurdle says the Pirates will stick with him in the closer role.

Melancon has allowed six runs in six innings–compared to his 1.65 ERA in 142 combined innings in 2013/2014–and his average fastball has clocked in at just 89 miles per hour.

Yet here’s what Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

For me it’d be an absolute overreaction, one blown save, to make a switch now. … For us it’s pitch execution as much as it is anything. I still believe that the velocity will get back to where we’ve seen it.

Hurdle and Melancon both insist they aren’t worried about the drop in velocity and perhaps they’re right that the missing miles per hour will return soon, but in the meantime the Pirates are trotting out a pitcher who’s clearly not at 100 percent in the highest-leverage spots.

Cubs shut Brandon Morrow down for remainder of 2019

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Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow, on a rehab assignment as he works his way back from elbow and forearm issues, suffered a setback and has been shut down for the remainder of the 2019 season, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports.

Morrow, 35, hasn’t pitched since July 15, 2018. The right-hander inked a two-year, $21 million contract with the Cubs in December 2017 but has been unable to stay healthy. When he did pitch last year, he was excellent, limiting the opposition to five runs on 24 hits and nine walks with 31 strikeouts and 22 saves in 30 2/3 innings.

Morrow is likely done as a Cub. He has a vesting option for 2020 worth $12 million. The details aren’t publicly available but it presumably won’t vest. The Cubs can instead buy him out for $3 million, making him a free agent.