The Washington Nationals made their second set of September call ups on Labor Day, acquiring the contracts for starter Zach Duke and reliever Christian Garcia. Both pitchers are certainly not in the prospect stages of their careers, but they both had seasons worthy of a call up.
The Nats already made their first round of call ups with John Lannan, Eury Perez, and Sandy Leon. Lannan and Leon have already spent time in the majors this season, but Perez made his first splash with the Nats on Sunday in a pinch running appearance where he stole third base, a move that Davey Johnson wasn't thrilled about.
For Duke, it won't be his first time at the show. He spent six seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he earned an All-Star selection in 2009 due to his first half success. He had a 3.29 ERA and a 1.2 WHIP with an 8-8 record. His second half trailed off significantly in the second half of this year, posting a 5.17 ERA.
Duke was signed to a minor league deal this offseason by the Nats for some pitching insurance, and he had one of the best seasons of his career, either in the majors or the minors. He finished the season at Triple-A Syracuse with a 3.51 ERA in 164.1 innings pitched and 2.33 strikeouts per walk. That’s certainly a favorable ratio, but his 1.32 WHIP is a bit high for minor league numbers. Duke will likely work in long relief or mop up roles, but I wouldn’t expect to see a whole lot of him in September. He’s likely to be insurance in case of a long game or a blow out. He may get some action against lefties, too.
Garcia, on the other hand, is an interesting guy to watch. He has recovered from two Tommy John surgeries, and his first season in the Nationals organization has been a great one. He spent time with Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse this season, and his numbers are almost unreal. In 45 games at both levels, he has an 0.86 ERA, an 0.917 WHIP, struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings. He hasn’t given up a single home run this season and recorded 21 saves at both levels.
While Duke is an insurance call up, Garcia may an impact call up early on, especially with Sean Burnett’s recent struggles in late innings. Garcia is a hard throwing late-inning reliever whose stuff can translate to the major league level. He’s not going to displace Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen any time soon, but he could be the next big thing for the Nats already impressive bullpen. Keep an eye out for him in the next month.