Cardinals Bullpen ~ Left-hander Zach Duke Out For 2017 With Tommy John Surgery

Zach Duke, left handed reliever for the Cardinals, underwent his second career Tommy John surgery this past week.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals had dealt with multi-injuries throughout the 2016 season; along, with many MLB teams throughout the season. The last to go to their 60-Day DL is left hander reliever Zach Duke. He did not pitch in the last series of the season, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, due to elbow discomfort. 

The announcement came yesterday from Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, who "confirmed a report of the surgery Friday, saying that the 33-year-old Duke had had another ligament replacement surgery earlier in his career, had visited with Dr. James Andrews after the season and, after an MRI, it was decided not only to fix the elbow but the forearm flexor muscle."  More than likely, Duke will be out the entire 2017 season. Mozeliak, also added, his thoughts regarding Duke's future remaining "open-minded" to a possible return by Duke later in the season. But he said, “From an organizational standpoint, we have to make sure we’re protected.”  (Rick Hummel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)  As of yesterday, news came that Duke had his surgery last week after the close of the Cardinals season. 

Duke was acquired in a mid-season trade with the Chicago White Sox sending Cardinals prospect Charlie Tilson to Chicago. Tilson made his debut with the White Sox, August 2, getting his first major league hit in his 2 AB; however, exited the game with a hamstring injury. Duke, an 11 year major leaguer, holds a career 4.31 ERA with 773 strikeouts. He began his career as a stater with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He continued his career with the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers; and, finally with the White Sox coming out the bullpen. 

Duke made his debut with the Cardinals, on August 2. He followed Adam Wainwright in the sixth, 0.2 IP/2-BB/1 SO holding the Reds scoreless. In August, he closed the month with a 0.73 ERA. In September, his last game pitched; once again, facing the Reds, 0.1 IP/1 ER/1-BB in the Cardinals 4-3 win. He has been used in Cardinals late innings; and, usually to take care of inherited runners. Stranding most, he only allowed four of 25 to score. The left-hander facing lefties at the plate, held them to a .161 BA. He closed this season with a 2.36 ERA/68 SO, with two saves.

Along with game appearances as a White Sox, Duke logged a career season high of 81 games. He was second, by one game, to San Diego Padres Brad Hand. 

"It’s definitely disappointing,” said Mozeliak, “because when we made the trade for him, part of the attraction of the trade was that we would have him for more than half a season." 

"Duke will be on the last year of a three-year contract signed with the White Sox and is slated to make $5.5 million in 2017."  He will be a free agent in 2018. Duke, Kevin Siegrist and Dean Kiekhefer had been Cardinals left-handers from the bullpen this past season. Looking to 2017, southpaws Tyler Lyons (knee); Tim Cooney (shoulder); and, Marco Gonzales (Tommy John) will be ready to return to Spring training from their DL stints in 2016.  

"Mozeliak noted that Duke had been an important “bridge” in the seventh and eighth innings, a spot not easily filled, and acknowledged that the possibility that the organization might have to look outside for left handers, too."  So the Cardinals add another "possible" to their list to prepare for their 2017 season; and, beyond.