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Pirates All 40: Duane Underwood Jr. Has a Trait That Provides Value

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The Pittsburgh Pirates’ roster has churned, churned then churned some more over the past few years.

However, one of the few constants has been right-handed reliever Duane Underwood Jr. since he was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs during spring training in 2021.

Underwood’s 94 games are the third-most by a Pirates pitcher since the start of the 2021 season. He stands behind just Chris Stratton (108) and David Bednar. Stratton was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals last Aug. 2.

Underwood has worked multiple innings in 43 of those outings.

While Underwood’s performance has not been overwhelming during his time with the Pirates, manager Derek Shelton likes the 28-year-old’s durability. Underwood, though, did have two stints on the injured list during the first half of last season.

In 51 games in 2022, Underwood had a 1-6 record, one save and a 4.40 ERA. He struck out 57 in 57.1 innings but also had 25 walks and a 1.44 WHIP.

Underwood had trouble getting his footing early in the season.

On opening day in St. Louis on April 7, Underwood faced only one Cardinals batter before being forced from the game with a right hamstring strain. He was not reinstated from the IL until May 12.

Underwood returned to the IL on June 13 after testing positive for COVID-19. That kept him out of action until July 3.

The highlights for Underwood were few.

He notched his first career save on Sept. 13 by pitching the ninth inning of a 1-0 victory over the Reds in Cincinnati. He also had at least one strikeout in 19 consecutive games from May 12-July 24.

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Underwood allowed only one home run all season. However, it was a pivotal one as the Philadelphia Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins had a game-winning two-run blast in the 10th inning on July 29 at PNC Park.

Underwood also took back-to-back losses on Sept. 3-4 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Pirates expect Underwood to be in their bullpen again when the 2023 season opens. He figures to again be in a middle relief role.

Though he was eligible for arbitration for the first time, the Pirates kept Underwood on the 40-man and signed him to a one-year, $1,025,000 contract last Friday to avoid a potential hearing.

 

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