Duane Underwood deal paves way for Albert Almora
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org July 6, 2012 10:32PM
Mets left fielder Scott Hairston can’t come up with Reed Johnson’s double in the third. | Mike Stobe~Getty Images
CUBS AT METS
The facts: 3:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.
The starters: Jeff Samardzija (6-7, 4.77 ERA) vs. Dillon Gee (5-7, 4.34).
Updated: August 8, 2012 6:14AM
NEW YORK — The Cubs’ $1.05 million agreement with second-round draft pick Duane Underwood could make the signing of No. 6 overall pick Albert Almora imminent as soon as Underwood passes his physical Monday.
The deadline for signing draft picks is Friday.
Strict limits this year on bonus spending for the top 10 rounds and for each team overall leave the Cubs just over $3.5 million of their allotted budget, based on bonus tracking by Baseball America.
In addition, the Cubs can spend roughly $400,000 more without losing future draft picks (but paying a high-percentage tax on the over-limit total).
That gives the Cubs just over $3.9 million to spend on Almora, the prep outfielder from South Florida, who’s the only unsigned player among the team’s top 20 picks.
Almora, whose slot was assigned a $3.25 million recommendation by MLB, has the leverage of a full-ride scholarship to Miami.
Despite the suggestion from Almora during a media conference call on draft day that he might take the scholarship, the Cubs have remained optimistic they’ll sign their top pick.
Almora’s adviser, Scott Boras, declined comment on the subject because of strict NCAA rules regarding advisers/agents and amateur status.
Underwood, the 67th overall pick, is a right-hander with mid-90s velocity from Marietta, Ga.
Alert the scouts
After another strong throwing session Friday, Ryan Dempster was scheduled, as expected, to return from the disabled list to start Sunday against the New York Mets.
This will give teams searching for pitching an early look at his health and strength before the All-Star break.
‘‘I can’t control those things,’’ said Dempster, who hasn’t pitched since June 15 because of a lat muscle strain. ‘‘I’m just glad I’m feeling good and back to being healthy. … Especially in the last week or so, it really started to turn a corner, and I just feel really good.’’
Manager Dale Sveum said Dempster will be on a pitch limit of 70-80, and he has the full bullpen and at least a couple of starters at his disposal if necessary because it’s the last game before a four-day break.
Dempster, who has a 2.11 ERA, could be one of the first pitchers traded between now and the July 31 non-waiver deadline if he fares well Sunday. Among several teams that have shown interest, the Los Angeles Dodgers are still considered by major-league sources to be the favorites to land Dempster.
‘‘That’s OK,’’ he said of trade rumors picking up again. ‘‘They’ve been there. Doesn’t bother me. I’m just going to try to do my job the best I can and let all those things take care of themselves.’’
One day after saying Starlin Castro’s defense was too valuable to rest him, Sveum kept Castro out of the starting lineup for the first time this year, in part because the All-Star shortstop won’t get the same break next week that his teammates will. Until Friday, Castro was the only NL player to start all of his team’s games.
◆ Dempster’s activation from the DL on Sunday likely means the return to Class AAA Iowa of Chris Volstad after only one disappointing start.