Lefty Zach Duke entered Spring Training with few expectations after signing a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers this past winter. Coming off a year where he allowed 21 earned runs in just 31.1 innings pitched, just making the major league roster looked to be a long shot.
However, he not only made the team, but he has excelled. While strong arms like Will Smith and Francisco Rodriguez succeeding in the back of the bullpen, Duke has been even better.
When he first made the team out of Spring Training, I thought that he was going to be the first arm sent down. But that has never happened. From his very first outing, he has been excellent. He has not had one month where he has given up more than two earned runs, and is currently in the midst of a perfect July. His 12 K/9 is more than double his career mark. Through 40.2 innings, Duke has allowed just five earned runs while posting a 1.11 ERA.
Although his great season has gone mostly unnoticed, Duke provides an arm in the bullpen that can do anything. In 46 appearances, he has gone more than an inning seven times. As a former starter, he can be extended to pitch several innings, and can also been counted on in late-inning situations.
After floundering through four organizations in nine years, Duke looks to have found his niche in Milwaukee. While he has gotten very little credit for his amazing season, the bullpen would be nowhere near as strong if he was not in it. Of all the Brewers on the roster, he is easily the most underrated.
He may have been signed as a gamble and an afterthought, but there is no telling where the Brewers would be without him.