Last month the Astros signed Zach Duke to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Personally, I had to say…Why???? Duke burst onto the big league scene back in 2005 and had a great rookie year with the Pirates, going 8-2 with a microscopic 1.81 ERA in 14 starts. And then… something happened. Duke has never been able to come close to duplicating his memorable rookie season. In fact, he has been consistently terrible. In the last six seasons Duke has failed to post an ERA below four, and only once (2009) has he recorded a WHIP below 1.5. Duke is a combined 40-72 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.575 WHIP since 2006.
What do Jeff Luhnow and company see that I am missing? He’s left-handed. Okay. So are Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ. Wandy is a “big part of the plan for 2012″ so it’s not like the Astros don’t have a lefty in the rotation. I honestly can’t see Duke beating out any of the other rotation candidates. Even Livan Hernandez appears to have more left in the tank than Duke. Granted Hernandez is 37 (allegedly) and Duke is only 28. Perhaps the thinking is: Hernandez can fill a rotation spot this year while Jordan Lyles gains experience in the minors & Burt Hooton can try to help Duke rediscover whatever it is he seems to have lost. It won’t be long until we find out. Pitchers and catchers report in only five days!