NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Washington Nationals are no longer without any left-handed relievers after agreeing to terms with Zach Duke on a one-year major league contract, according to multiple sources.
Duke, who made 26 starts for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in 2012 and was 15-5 with a 3.51 ERA, performed well in a September call-up (1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 innings) and the Nationals remained interested in keeping him in the fold when the season ended.
A one-time All-Star for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Duke’s career was re-tracked this season after he was reunited with Nationals’ pitching coordinator Spin Williams, who was his pitching coach during his success in Pittsburgh. He will likely fill the left-handed long relief and spot start role that Tom Gorzelanny filled this past season.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo suggested he’d also be considered depth for the starting pitching staff.
“I think we’re going to keep him stretched out in spring training and see where we’re at with the fifth starter spot,” Rizzo said, though the team’s search for a fifth starter is in no way over. “He’ll give us some depth. He’s a guy who’s started in the past, that can start games. I think the same can be said about Christian Garcia.
“They’ll be in the mix for a fifth starting job, or at least as starting depth, and if not then he’ll kind of fill that long left-hander that Davey likes in the bullpen.”
Gorzelanny, who was a reliable member of the Nationals’ bullpen, was non-tendered on Friday night. After making $3 million on 2012, Gorzelanny was likely due a raise in arbitration and the Nationals felt they could fill that role in a more economical way.
They did not immediately close the door on bringing back Gorzelanny on a new contract, but it would be mildly surprising for them to do that now, with Duke in the fold.
– A source confirmed the Nationals also signed left-hander (and former Nationals pitcher) Bill Bray to a minor league deal. Bray, who was dealt to the Reds in 2006 in exchange for Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, spent much of the 2012 season dealing with injury, but if the Nationals fail to sign another significant lefty reliever to a major league deal, he could certainly work his way onto the roster in spring training.