Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez until Spring Training. Enjoy. (photo courtesy: Cheryl Nichols, DistrictSportsPage)
It doesn't feel like it now, but Zach Duke didn't appear on the Nationals' MLB roster until early September as a call up. After being signed as an extra starter prior to the 2012 season, he pitched extremely well in 26 starts for Triple-A Syracuse. He posted a 3.51 ERA, which was the best ERA at any level in any season with more than two appearances since his rookie season in 2005.
After he was called up, I was extremely excited to watch Zach Duke pitch at the major league level. He had some opportunities with Pittsburgh and Arizona recently, but none of them were particularly successful after his 2009 season where he was named to the NL All-Star team after an exceptional start to the season. The second half of his season was less exceptional, and he ended up with an ERA above 4.00. He hadn't had anything to really hang his hat on since.
Despite it maybe being against the odds, the impressive numbers continued once he was called up. In eight September appearances from the bullpen, Duke posted a 1.32 ERA and a 1.098 WHIP in 13.2 innings. It wasn't enough to get him added to the Nationals postseason roster, but it was enough to get him a major league deal for the 2013 season.
Duke is one of those reclamation stories I love seeing in baseball where a player with real potential has a flash of brilliance followed by a prolonged slump and somehow makes it back. Time will tell if he's able to continue his success from 2012 in the Nationals bullpen this season.
Next year: Duke will likely be on the only left-handed reliever in the Nationals bullpen this season, but I imagine he'll be splitting the long relief appearances with Craig Stammen as well as taking on some lefty specialist duties. I expect Duke to have a solid year, though probably not quite as great as his brief stint with the team in 2012.
Next up: #31 John Lannan