Tuesday, June 26, 2018

We've Got (Under)wood!

It looks like I picked a good weekend to be out of town.

The past five days have been absolutely disastrous for the Cubs.  When I left for Gatlinburg on Thursday morning, the team was coming off of a pair series wins against the Dodgers and the Cardinals and were closing back in on first place in the division.  Then, while I was gone and headed towards Tennessee, things went south faster than I did.  A four-game sweep at the hands of the lowly Reds - which included three late collapses - left the club absolutely reeling.  Then, to compound matters, short starts by an already depleted rotation and impending fatherhood left the pitching staff in shambles.

Sorry, ya'll - I promise not to leave the state during baseball season anymore.  Clearly this causes some sort of jynx, or hex, or something.

In the midst of the chaos, Tyler Chatwood and his wife were expecting their first child, pulling him away from his scheduled start on Sunday.  This caused yet another shuffling of the starting rotation, allowing the opportunity for Duane Underwood to make his long-anticipated Major League debut on Monday night, as Chatty was placed on the paternity list.

Unfortunately, things didn't get any better for the Cubs in Los Angeles.  Underwood performed capably, showing swing-and-miss stuff and good poise on the mound, as he allowed just a single Dodger tally.  However, he was a bit nibbly, resulting in three walks and a bloated pitch count, which limited him to just four innings.  Worse yet, the Cubs offense neglected to show up and were shut out  until the ninth inning, where they staged a patented "fake rally" before losing, 2-1, and extending their losing streak to five contests.

On the bright side, I did have the 2016 Bowman Chrome card that you see above queued and ready to be inserted into my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder.  That's something to hang my hat on, I guess.

That's enough about the lately disappointing play of the Cubs - let's instead talk about the latest player to don a Cubbie Blue uniform, Duane Underwood.

Duane delivering a pitch in Dodger Stadium, image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

As far as stuff goes, Duane has a three-pitch arsenal, which keys off of his fastball that tops out at 97mph.  His secondary pitches include a curve and changeup that will get batters swinging and missing regularly when they're working.  However, they're not always working and control issues have plagued him since the earliest days of his career.

Underwood was drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2012 draft, as a promising but inconsistent hurler.  After an initial issue with work ethic, he eventually came into his own in 2014 with the low-A Kane County Cougars.  That year Underwood tossed 100.2 innings with a 2.50 ERA and 84 strikeouts against only 34 walks.  As a result, he earned a spot in Baseball America's prospect rankings, who named him the tenth best player in a loaded farm system.

As is all too common a tale for pitching prospects, it was here that injuries set in and further delayed his development.  Problems with forearm tightness limited and a sore elbow limited him on the mound in both 2015 and 2016.  Thankfully, Duane was fortunate enough to avoid going under the knife and he still performed well enough when healthy to be promoted to High-A and AA along the way.  That said, his strikeout totals started to drop and his walk rate began to rise, as well, as he battled control issues stemming from his complicated delivery.

Though he wasn't exactly dominant, he was challenged with a promotion to AAA to begin 2018.  The now 23-year old responded in a big way - improving both is strikeouts (7.5 SO9) and walks (2.5 BB9) while simultaneously going deeper into games and smoothing out his delivery.  Thus, when Chatwood was called away to more important duties, Underwood appeared more than ready to step up and take a turn.

Here's a custom Topps Now card I made to commemorate Duane's first big shot, since the event did end up being worthy of a genuine issue.

Though Duane did in fact fill-in in capably, the Cubs offense just did not offer any run support.  Furthermore, Underwood will likely have to wait a while for another shot, as Chatwood's stay on the paternity list will expire tomorrow.  Our newest Cub seems destined to return to Iowa once that happens; although, I would expect to seem him on the Major League roster again before the season is out.  At any rate, after a six-year wait, the rookie is now officially a Major Leaguer and is represented as such in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.

Welcome to Chicago and my CATRC, Duane!... and here's hoping that Jon Lester can stop the bleeding in LA tonight.  Panic (just or not) is beginning to set in here in the Windy City.


  1. Kind of cruddy he had to take then L when Wilson gave up the winning home run. Further evidence that the W-L record is probably an outdated stat.

  2. I'm holding out hope that Underwood becomes the first decent major league pitcher to be drafted by Theo & Co. Rob Z. is the only other one to make it to the bigs to my knowledge.