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Duke becoming key situational lefty for Reds

CINCINNATI -- Early last month, while things were going very well at Triple-A Louisville, veteran lefty Zach Duke opted to exercise an out clause in his contract and was released. Ten days later, he was re-signed by the organization and returned to Louisville.

"I figured, 'What could it hurt to see what was out there?'" Duke said on Monday. "Nothing was out there, and thankfully they brought me back here. It all worked out the way it was supposed to."

Duke, 30, has been a key second lefty situational reliever to complement Manny Parra in the middle-to-late innings. Entering Monday night, he hadn't allowed a run in five appearances since his Aug. 30 call-up, hadn't allowed a hit in his last four games (1 2/3 innings) and stranded all five inherited runners.

All of Duke's last four outings -- against the Cardinals and Dodgers and in the midst of the Reds' heated National League Central division race -- have been for one or two batters. On Thursday, in a 6-2 win over St. Louis, two runners were on with one out when Duke entered and got Carlos Beltran to ground into an inning- and rally-ending double play in the sixth inning.

"I feel great. I'm very thankful for the opportunities I've had and thankful for the results, for sure. Hopefully I continue to get some situations," Duke said. "I'm a free agent at the end of the year. To be able to contribute in a situation like this, it can mean nothing but good things for me in the future."

Duke began the season with the Nationals and was released June 10 after posting an 8.71 ERA in 12 games (including one start) -- with 31 hits allowed and eight walks in 20 2/3 innings. Three days later, he was signed by the Reds and went 2-0 with a 1.30 ERA, 19 hits, five walks and 34 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings in 26 games for Triple-A Louisville.

What helped with his turnaround? Duke believed being used regularly kept him from rusting out.

"I had the mindset I would be pitching every day and be more than likely to get in the game and not go eight or nine days without getting in a game," Duke said. "It's a lot easier to stay sharp when you get in there consistently."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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