Duke replaces Cain on NL All-Star roster
Lefty to make first All-Star appearance after Giants' injury
ST. LOUIS -- Just one week ago, shortly after learning who the Pirates' All-Star representative would be, Zach Duke said all the right things -- about how Freddy Sanchez deserved the team's All-Star invitation, that Duke didn't need to be a part of the All-Star team to feel good about what he had done in the first-half, that, sure, he wanted to go, but no, he didn't feel snubbed.
Well, Duke can take all of that back. It may have come on short notice, but Duke will be accompanying Sanchez to St. Louis, after all. The Pittsburgh left-hander was named to the National League team on Sunday morning, replacing Giants starter Matt Cain, who was struck near his right elbow with a line drive on Saturday and had to give up his spot.
Pirates manager John Russell called Duke into his office at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday morning to deliver the news
"I thought, 'Uh-oh, what did I do?'" Duke said. "But it turned out to be a pretty welcome surprise."
This marks Duke's first All-Star invitation and the first for a Pirates starter since Denny Neagle was named to the squad in 1995. The last Pirates pitcher to play in a Midsummer Classic was reliever Mike Williams, who earned back-to-back nods in 2002 and '03.
The selection also comes in the midst of a breakout season for the lefty. Though Duke's 8-8 record won't turn any heads, it can't be used as an accurate measuring stick for the way he has pitched. Duke's 3.29 ERA ranks 15th in the NL and sixth among the league's left-handers. His 126 innings pitched are surpassed only by All-Stars Tim Lincecum and Dan Haren.
"It's icing on the cake, knowing all the work you put in, to have this kind of recognition," Duke said. "That's what it feels like -- that you're being recognized for the work you've done across the league."
This stellar first half comes on the heels of three trying seasons for the Duke, who is still remembered for being the rookie who took the league by storm back in 2005. He went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts that year, but went on to post a 18-37 record and 4.82 ERA in the three seasons that followed.
Under the guidance of new pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, though, Duke has rediscovered his stuff this year. He has pitched at least six innings in all but one of his 18 starts. And of those 18 starts, 13 have been quality ones. Duke is tied for the league lead with three complete games already this year, a total that hadn't been reached by any Pittsburgh pitcher since Jeff Suppan finished the 2003 season with three. His most recent complete game came in front of Charlie Manuel, the NL's All-Star manager, on Friday.
So why isn't Duke's record more indicative of how well he's done? Fault the Pirates' offense for that one, as it has supplied only 10 total runs in the eight games Duke has lost this year.
"It's well-deserved, and he'll be a good representative for us," Russell said. "If we'd scored a few more runs for him, he'd have been be a shoo-in. But things have a way of working out."
Duke's addition to the All-Star team gives the Pirates two representatives for just the third time since 1994. Jason Kendall and Brian Giles represented the Pirates in the 2000 Midsummer Classic, while Jason Bay and Sanchez were named to the '06 team when the game was played in Pittsburgh.
This also changes Duke's plans for the midseason break this week. But for the better, of course.
"I was going to go home and sit on my butt for a few days, but that won't happen now," Duke said, laughing. "I know I'll see a lot of faces of guys I don't get out very well. I'm just going to take it all in, every second. I'll immerse myself in it."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.