Duane Underwood Jr. impressive in debut for Cubs after butterflies in first

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Underwood leaving the mound after the first inning Monday.

LOS ANGELES — Duane Underwood Jr. isn’t likely to forget his first inning pitched in the major leagues anytime soon.

Underwood, the Cubs’ second-round pick in president Theo Epstein’s first draft in 2012, was recalled from Class AAA Iowa on Monday to start in right-hander Tyler Chatwood’s place against the defending National League champion Dodgers.

The Cubs lost 2-1 for their fifth consecutive defeat and seventh in nine games after a dominating pitching performance by the Dodgers. Javy Baez’s sacrifice fly in the ninth was the lone run. But Underwood had a promising four innings — after 40 pitches worth of first-inning butterflies.

He faced six batters in a scoreless first inning, needing 40 pitches — including 14 to Matt Kemp — and two mound visits from his catcher and pitching coach to navigate the traffic. He left the bases loaded, but not before throwing a changeup over Justin Turner’s head and another high and tight to Kemp for ball four.

‘‘Aside from the nerves, which I think we all understand, I think he’ll be all right,’’ said catcher Chris Gimenez, who caught Underwood for a month this season at Iowa and was behind the plate Monday. ‘‘He just needs to slow himself down a little bit. I was texting with him last night, just telling him it’s still baseball — with another deck and a few more people than in Iowa.’’

Underwood settled in, but not before Enrique Hernandez led off the second with a homer to left, the only run Underwood allowed in four innings.

He faced the minimum the rest of his start, retiring eight of nine, with a double play erasing a walk. With two on and two out in the fifth and the Cubs trailing 1-0, Tommy La Stella pinch hit for Underwood.


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Underwood, 23, showed a 96 mph fastball and an 86 mph changeup, his best off-speed pitch. Always considered one of the top arms in the organization, he has been inconsistent during his minor-league career but seems to have turned a corner recently.

‘‘I’m excited for him,’’ Gimenez said. ‘‘He’s worked his butt off this year and really started to take that next step before I left, and now he’s getting his opportunity up here.’’

Another day for Bryant

Third baseman Kris Bryant was out of the lineup for a third consecutive day because of a sore shoulder, and the Cubs were evaluating his status for a possible appearance off the bench after he took swings off a tee for the first time since Friday.

‘‘It’s a day-to-day kind of thing; I don’t want to press him,’’ said manager Joe Maddon, who acknowledged the 10-day disabled list remains in play, pending Bryant’s status overnight. ‘‘I’m not anticipating [a DL move], but of course it is [an option].’’

Chatwood, Darvish on weekend?

Chatwood and right-hander Yu Darvish might return to the rotation in time to start in the weekend series against the Twins at Wrigley Field.

Chatwood, whose wife gave birth to their first child Sunday night (Owen Cruze Chatwood), is expected to be ready to rejoin the rotation for the opener Friday.

Darvish (triceps), who pitched five impressive, efficient innings for Class A South Bend in a rehab start Monday, might need only the one rehab game, Maddon said.

Bullpen reinforcements?

Injured closer Brandon Morrow, who suffered back spasms while taking off his pants last week, threw off a mound for the first time since the injury, and Maddon said he might be close to a return.

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