Closing out the season with their first playoff birth in franchise history, one of the strengths of the Washington Nationals roster was the number of left-handed options that the team was able to call upon in their bullpen – a group consisting of Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, and Zach Duke. Upon the conclusion of the San Francisco Giants’ victory in the World Series three of the four players officially became free agents and the last was non-tendered a week ago, but the team has taken a few steps towards restoring some of that depth with a pair of signings Monday afternoon. A new Major League contract was agreed upon with Duke and a minor league pact was given to former Cincinnati Red Bill Bray.
Duke originally joined the Nationals organization at the end of Spring Training, having been cut by the Houston Astros after agreeing to a minor league deal last winter. The 29 year old would end up spending most of the 2012 season with Washington’s Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, where he’d lead the International League with 15 victories while posting a 3.51 ERA over 164.1 innings of work. Duke would join the team’s Major League roster in September and worked strictly out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, posting impressive numbers in the process: 1-0, 1.32 ERA, 10 K, 11 H, 13.2 IP. Giving Duke a Major League contract shows some faith on the organization’s part that he can be a reliable option out of the bullpen over an extended period of time and they want to be able to consider utilizing him in such a role, provided there aren’t other additions made this winter.
Bray, meanwhile, is actually a former National, having been drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2004. He was included in the package of players sent to Cincinnati during the 2006 season, a deal which brought Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, and Ryan Wagner to Washington. He’s been with the Reds since, throwing 174.1 innings over 239 appearances, with a 3.72 ERA and 8.9 K/9. Bray missed some time this past season due to some nagging injuries, but has largely remained healthy over the past six seasons in Cincinnati.