Duane Underwood Jr. made Double-A debut on Friday night
RHP Duane Underwood Jr. is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Cubs’ system. Underwood Jr. was slowed in Spring Training with allergies and elbow stiffness and spent a majority of the first month of the minor league season in extended Spring Training.
Underwood Jr. was assigned to Double-A Tennessee and made the start Friday night at MGM Park against the Biloxi Shuckers (Milwaukee Brewers). The Smokies won the game 8-3.
Underwood Jr. completed four innings and allowed one run on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts while lighting up the radar gun. Underwood Jr.’s fastball sat in the 94-97 mph range and he touched 99 mph in the first inning. Underwood Jr. made 73 pitches, 45 for strikes.
Underwood Jr. retired the side in order in the first inning. Underwood Jr. struck out two of the three batters he faced with a fastball in the 95-97 mph range. Underwood Jr. reached back for a little extra as he struck out Jacob Nottingham swinging to end the first on a 99 mph fastball.
The second inning was not as easy for Underwood Jr. His command was a little off. He fell behind the first two hitters and it cost him a run. Nick Ramirez led off with a double to right. Victor Roache singled to center on a 3-2 pitch. And the Shuckers got on the board when Javier Betancourt rolled into a 3-6 fielder’s choice on a 0-1 pitch from Underwood Jr. Ramirez scored from third on the play.
Underwood Jr. buried a fastball on a 0-1 pitch to Christopher McFarland. Chesny Young fielded the grounder and started a 4-6-3 inning ending double play.
Underwood Jr. recorded two outs on five pitches to start the third. Nick Shaw grounded out to first and Jorge Ortega flied out to Bijan Rademacher in left field. Tyrone Taylor smoked a 1-0 pitch down the third baseline that went off Jeimer Candelario’s glove. Taylor reached second on the hot shot. Underwood Jr. finally retired Brett Phillips on a blooper to Chesny Young on the 10th pitch of the at bat.
In his fourth and final inning, Underwood Jr. retired Nottingham on a flyout to Billy McKinney in right. Nick Ramirez singled to center. Underwood Jr. jumped ahead of Victor Roache 0-2 but could not put him away. Roache walked. Betancourt flied out to left center and McFarland rolled a 2-0 pitch right to Jeimer Candelario at third … and he stepped on the bag to end the inning.
Duane Underwood Jr. was lifted for pinch-hitter Anthony Giansanti in the fifth inning. Underwood Jr. was scheduled for five-six innings and around 80 pitches.
The Smokies tied the game and took the lead in the eighth inning. Billy McKinney (0-for-4 with a HBP, a run scored and a RBI) picked up a painful RBI when he was hit by a pitch on the hand with the bases loaded and forced in Jacob Hannemann (3-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and a RBI) with the tying run. The Smokies made the Shuckers pitching staff work in the eighth.
Victor Caratini (1-for-5 with a run scored and a RBI) drove in the go ahead run with a single to center that plated the red-hot Chesny Young (4-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI)
The Smokies scored eight runs in the eighth inning, the most runs in a single inning for Mark Johnson’s team this season. Bijan Rademacher (0-for-3 with two walks, a run scored and a RBI) walked with the bases loaded and forced in Candelario. Kelly Dugan hit a sac fly to center that allowed McKinney to score. After Carlos Penalver (2-for-4 with a double) re-loaded the bases with a single to left, Brad Markey rolled into a 6-4 fielder’s choice that allowed Caratini to score. Hannemann singled in Rademacher and Young drove in Markey with a single to center. But Young was caught in between first and second to end the inning.
The Smokies pounded out 10 hits, nine singles, and walked four times.
Duane Underwood Jr. throwing heat with an effective debut for Double-A Tennessee was a good way for the 21-year old right hander to begin his season.