Chicago Cubs: Duane Underwood Jr. impresses in 2019 debut

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs Duane Underwood Jr. has been here before–for a short stint in 2018. After last night’s performance, maybe he needs a longer audition.

The Chicago Cubs Duane Underwood Jr. got a brief cup of coffee in 2018 when he made a spot start. He wasn’t around for long as he was sent back down to Iowa, but he impressed in that outing, as well. I don’t want to get excited about a pitcher. And it was 11-0 at the time, so it’s possible that Bob Melvin ‘called off the dogs’ for Oakland. Even if that’s the case, striking out six consecutive batters is still remarkable.

Underwood Jr. used to be a Cubs Top 30 prospect, No. 7 in 2016. He’s fallen from grace and has a hard time since being promoted from High-A ball. In Double-A he’s posted a 13-12 record with a 4.58 ERA in 196 2/3 innings with a WHIP of 1.408. It’s gotten worse in Triple-A. He’s 6-16 there with a 4.75 ERA, ad a WHIP of 1.433 in 195 1/3 innings. But somehow, when he gets his chance in Chicago, he makes the most of it.

Last year against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, he threw four innings, allowing just two hits and one earned run, a home run. He struck out three and walked three, but he pitched well for a spot start. But the Cubs were using his for a start, and he was sent back down to Triple-A.

When Craig Kimbrel went on the IL with knee inflammation, Underwood got the call-up. Yesterday, the Cubs had more bullpen issues as Brandon Kintzler went on the IL. Pedro Strop was activated. Little did we know that Underwood Jr. would steal the show last night.

After Jon Lester had undeniably his worst start of the year, Underwood was called in to pitch. He struck out all six batters he faced. And it wasn’t the bottom of the order guys. He had to go through Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Mark Canha on his way to his six punchouts.

Again, I’m not going to excited about Underwood Jr. six K’s. I got all giddy on Adbert Alzolay‘s debut, and that fizzled out quick. But man, he looks sharp. And he almost expected that to happen as Jim Deshaies said. But nine strikeouts in six innings against the Dodgers last season and the A’s this year? Not too shabby.

At this point, the Chicago Cubs shouldn’t shy away from potential bullpen help. On the contrary, they should throw them into the fire. Rowan Wick survived, and now hs a more prominent role in the bullpen. Where that role is yet is undefined, but many fans–including myself–believe he should get his chance at closer while Kimbrel is out.

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Strop isn’t what he once was. Steve Cishek has scuffled. And Kintzler, who was likely going to be the temporary closer in on the IL. Wick has proven his worth. Maybe Underwood Jr. is doing the same. We can only hope.