"Zach Duke, he just wasn't feeling comfortable with his role out of the bullpen, even though he successfully did it last year for us," Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier last week after announcing that the veteran left-hander had been designated for assignment. "He wasn't feeling comfortable with the workload that he was doing, so we brought up Ian Krol, who's a power left-handed pitcher who attacks the strike zone and has shown very little fear about throwing the ball over the plate with two plus pitches and really performed admirably at the Double-A level. When we were looking for our left-handed replacement for Zach, it was clear that this was the guy that had to be brought up."
Duke signed as a free agent with the Nationals in March of 2012 and spent most of the season in Triple-A last year, where was (15-5) with a 3.51 ERA and a 4.09 FIP in 26 starts and 164.1 IP. Called up to the nation's capital in September, as the Nats' GM noted, Duke performed well out of the pen, posting a 1.32 ERA and a 2.51 FIP in eight games and 13.2 IP in which he convinced the Nationals he could fill the middle relief role Tom Gorzelanny pitched in last season. The Nationals re-signed Duke for a second year this past December.
After 12 games and 20.2 IP out of the pen this year, however, Duke had an 8.71 ERA and a 4.57 FIP in that role before the Nationals designated him for assignment last week. Left-handed hitters had a .448/.467/.552 line against Duke early in 2013, and right-handers put up a .286/.377/.492 line. Davey Johnson told reporters last week he thought another team would take a chance on the 30-year-old, nine-year veteran.
"His situation was very tough," Johnson admitted, "for a starter learning how to pitch just maybe once every ten days or something like that and that's very difficult. He relies on change of speeds and location. That's tough for a guy that's been starting his whole life. I feel confident he'll probably get picked up to start somewhere."
Duke was officially released this afternoon according to a report by the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, who also suggests the team may be working on a deal for right-hander Henry Rodriguez, who was DFA'd on the same day as Duke last week.