Duke battles delivery flaw


For the second year in a row, lefty Zach Duke had a bumpy second half of the season.

Over his final 10 starts this season, Duke went 3-5 with a 6.57 ERA. In 50 2/3 innings, he allowed 70 hits and 19 walks. “There were times I got a little lost within myself, really just searching for anything on the mound,” Duke admits.

However, Duke went into the offseason knowing what he needs to fix. Ray Searge, who became pitching coach midway through the season, spotted a flaw in Duke’s delivery.

“He had too much of a pause when he made his turn,” Searge said. “He would start smooth, then stop and then have to go zero to 60. He’d be going out too quick, so his body was ahead of his arm. At least now we know what the disease was, and we have the cure.”

With his timing out of sync, Duke became even more of a contact pitcher. His batting average against this past season was .321, the second-highest mark of his career (behind .359 in 2007).

“My arm needs to be a little quicker,” Duke said. “What (the pause) did was make me easier to time. If you look at a guy like Cliff Lee, who has a very short arm action and a very quick delivery, guys just don’t seem to catch up with his fastball. I used to have a little bit of that, and that’s what we’re trying to get back to.”

»»» There’s been a time change for one of the Pirates’ spring training games. The March 18 game against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., will start at 7:05 p.m.