Pirate reliever Duane Underwood Jr. slammed the door shut in a perfect game for Puerto Rico in Monday night's World Baseball Classic action
Action from the World Baseball Classic continues to roll along. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, notable performances have included David Bednar pitching a scoreless inning for Team USA while infield prospect Tsung-Che Cheng has been turning heads for Chinese Taipei.
In Monday night's WBC action, a Pirate relief pitcher was part of history. Odds are, it is a reliever that many Pirate fans would not have expected to be on the right side of history.
Few Pirate pitchers have caught more flack from the fan base the past two seasons than reliever Duane Underwood Jr. In 130.0 innings pitched with the Pittsburgh Pirates the past two seasons Underwood Jr. has posted a 4.36 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 9.0% walk rate, and a 21.1% strikeout rate.
A lack of ability or stuff has never been Underwood Jr.'s problem. The 28-year-old has plus stuff and the tool needed to be a quality major league reliever. However, poor command of his pitches has led to him struggling to find consistency.
Monday night, Underwood Jr. was part of history in the WBC. Underwood Jr. pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning for Puerto Rico against Israel. This 1-2-3 inning capped off a perfect game for the Puerto Rico pitching staff. Underwood Jr. has now pitched 2 scoreless innings in the WBC.
Prior to joining the Puerto Rican team for the WBC, Underwood Jr. had allowed 3 runs, 1 earned, on four hits, no walks, and five strikeouts in 3.0 Grapefruit League innings pitched this spring. Underwood Jr.'s stuff has looked good this spring with his command looking better than in the past.
While he has battled inconsistency the past two seasons Underwood Jr. will start the season in the Pirate bullpen. Being out of minor league options is a big reason why Underwood Jr. will start the season in the bullpen. Now, how long his leash is will remain to be seen.
For now, however, Underwood Jr. will continue to pitch for Puerto Rico in the WBC. Hopefully, Underwood Jr. continues to find success for the Puerto Rican team as he prepares for the 2023 season with the Pirates.