ST. LOUIS -- Despite his mixed performance since returning to the Cardinals, Zach Duke said he is making progress in his return from Tommy John surgery and has experienced no setbacks.
"As varied as the results looked, I felt like yesterday was a big step in the right direction for me," Duke said on Sunday, a day after pitching one-third of an inning in a 7-1 loss to the D-backs. "The fastball command was spot-on for me, and I felt freedom with my breaking balls that I hadn't really felt up to this point. It's definitely a building block."
After forcing the first batter he faced into a groundout, the left-hander allowed the next two to reach on a hit by pitch and a walk. The outing was Duke's third since coming off the 60-day disabled list on July 21. In his previous appearance, Monday vs. the Cubs, Duke gave up two runs on two hits, including a homer. He also walked a batter and did not register an out.
"The thing that I have to keep in my mind is that this is like I'm pretty much just coming out of Spring Training and these guys are 400 at-bats in. So I'm a little bit behind in that regard," Duke said. "I'm really encouraged to this point, and I feel like I'm really close to reeling off a bunch of scoreless innings."
Rotation plans in flux
The Cardinals have still not settled on a starter for Wednesday's game in Milwaukee. Adam Wainwright (mid-back tightness) continues to progress, but he'll have to throw a side session off the mound pain-free before the Cardinals are comfortable activating him from the 10-day DL.
Wainwright has told the organization he'll come to Busch Stadium on Monday's off-day to throw that bullpen session.
In the meantime, manager Mike Matheny has told Luke Weaver to prepare as if he'll be starting that second game of a three-game series at Miller Park. The Cardinals have announced starters for Tuesday (Carlos Martinez) and Thursday (Michael Wacha).
• Stephen Piscotty (right groin strain) is expected to be back in the Class A Peoria lineup on Sunday night as he continues his rehab assignment. Piscotty, who is 2-for-11 in three games, will likely rejoin the Cardinals in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
• Having started every game since the All-Star break, Tommy Pham was out of the lineup on Sunday. Though his absence generated speculation about possible Trade Deadline activity, Pham's absence was related to workload, Matheny said.
• Triple-A Memphis became the second team in Minor League Baseball to reach the 70-wins mark, doing so with a 14-8 victory on Saturday. Tyler O'Neill, who was acquired from the Mariners last week, tallied three RBIs in the win.