Cubs’ top pitching prospect waits for first big-league chance

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MESA, Ariz. — Duane Underwood, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, still is waiting to find out when he gets his first look in a Cactus League game – but only because his spring was set back early in camp when he caught a bug.

“No issues now,” said Underwood, who went 6-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 14 starts at advanced-A Myrtle Beach last year. “I’m just going through the whole process and waiting my turn. I’ve been throwing pens and everything feels good.”

Underwood, the Cubs’ second-round pick in 2012, was shut down in early July because of elbow inflammation and, because of the Cubs’ especially cautious rehab process with minor-league pitchers, didn’t pitch again until the end of August.

Now in his first big-league camp, he seems to blend well with the big-league core, including adopting a daily prep routine suggested by Jake Arrieta.

“I’m using the downtime to just really learn stuff,” said Underwood, who’s expected to open at Class AA Tennessee this year. “I just keep my eyes open and just soak everything in.”

Notes: Infielder Tommy La Stella, who left Monday’s game after one inning because of a calf cramp, is expected back in the lineup in the next day or two.

–Hitting coach John Mallee had a sore left arm but otherwise fared well the day after being struck by a foul line drive while sitting on the field about 65 feet from the plate with other coaches Monday.

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