Duke started nearly every game he appeared in for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2005-2010, but took on other roles when he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was named the starter in only nine out of the 21 games he appeared in for the Diamondbacks and did not start a single game with the Nationals last season.
Washington has confirmed that Duke will be used as the team’s long reliever, but could be utilized as a starter if need be. Duke will take the place of reliever Tom Gorzelanny in the bullpen, who the Nationals non-tendered on Friday.
Duke played for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs, after he signed a minor league contract in March of this year after he was released by the Houston Astros. The 29-year-old, who will turn 30 in April, was called up to the majors late last season. He pitched in Stephen Strasburg’s last home game of the 2012 season after the ace was shut down for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011.
Duke has shown plenty of potential in his seven years in the Major Leagues and was even voted to the National League All-Star team in 2009 when he played for Pittsburgh. However, his struggles were too much to overcome as the Pirates were forced to take him out of the starting rotation. That has all changed now after he reunited with pitching coach Spin Williams, who was with Duke in Pittsburgh. Williams has apparently found a way to get Duke back on track, which is a big reason why the Nationals elected to re-sign the pitcher.
In only eight appearances with the Nationals last season, Duke posted a 1-0 record with a 1.32 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 10 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.
Michael is a MLB and NBA Featured Writer for Rant Sports, but covers topics for various teams in baseball, basketball, and football. Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelTerrill and on Facebook