Coming off 2015's disappointing performance, the 33-year-old southpaw showed new signs of life in 2016. It was a busy year for Zach Duke, who pitched 61 innings over a career-high 81 games. While he wasn't labeled as a lefty specialist, he was especially dominant when facing left-handed hitters, against whom he finished the year with a 1.65 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Although he raised his strikeout rate half a percent to 26.4, he had another year with an uncharacteristic lack of control, resulting in an 11.2 percent walk rate. Unfortunately, the Cardinals will have to look elsewhere for someone to replicate Duke's solid relief in the upcoming 2017 campaign, as he recently underwent Tommy John surgery and is going to be out for the entirety of the season.
Duke underwent Tommy John surgery and had his flexor muscle repaired last week, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports. He is expected to miss the 2017 season. This news came out of nowhere, as Duke wasn't even known to be dealing with any injuries at the conclusion of the regular season. He is a free agent after the 2017 season, so this is a huge blow for him personally, but he should recover in time to work out for teams prior to the start of the 2018 season in hopes of earning another contract.
Duke picked up a one-out save, his first, in Tuesday's extra-innings win against the Brewers. The Cardinals went to Seung-Hwan Oh in the ninth in a tie game, leaving manager Mike Matheny to play matchups after St. Louis took the lead in the 10th. Even though the Brewers pinch-hit with right-hander Manny Pina, Duke managed to pick up the strikeout and finish the game. Expect Duke to be more of a LOOGY type down the stretch, but he can get a righty out if he needs to.
Duke was acquired by the Cardinals on Sunday, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Duke will provide the Cardinals with a left-handed arm in the bullpen in exchange for minor-league outfielder Charlie Tilson. The 33-year-old Duke has a long career in baseball as both a starter and reliever, but has really came on of late, posting a 1.71 ERA and .197 opponent batting average over 21 innings since May 27.
Duke has allowed two runs over 10.1 innings in July, with 12 strikeouts to just four walks. The 11-year vet is posting the second-best K/9 of his career (10.31) and leads the team in appearances with 51, but despite the effectiveness and high usage, Duke isn't currently slated to get save opportunities.
Duke pitched a scoreless ninth inning Wednesday, striking out two while working around a hit for his first save of the season. It was just his third career save, but with closer David Robertson having pitched on three consecutive days (including a four-out save Tuesday), Duke got the call with two left-handed hitters due up in the ninth for Boston. If you're a Duke owner because your league counts holds, it's a nice bonus; if not, you can safely ignore this save. There's no changing of the guard happening here.