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Duke returns to Reds on one-year deal

Cincy designates right-hander Lopez for assignment in corresponding move
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- This past offseason featured multiple trades by the Reds, but Monday officially marked their first free-agent acquisition, when lefty reliever Zach Duke signed a one-year, $2 million contract. To make room for Duke, right-handed pitcher Jose Lopez was designated for assignment.

Duke, who will turn 36 in April, agreed to terms with Cincinnati on Feb. 2. The club will get added veteran presence in its bullpen. He is a 14-year Major League veteran.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- This past offseason featured multiple trades by the Reds, but Monday officially marked their first free-agent acquisition, when lefty reliever Zach Duke signed a one-year, $2 million contract. To make room for Duke, right-handed pitcher Jose Lopez was designated for assignment.

Duke, who will turn 36 in April, agreed to terms with Cincinnati on Feb. 2. The club will get added veteran presence in its bullpen. He is a 14-year Major League veteran.

In 72 games combined for the Twins and Mariners last season, Duke was 5-5 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Over 52 innings, he allowed 57 hits including one home run with 21 walks and 51 strikeouts. Left-handed hitters batted .220 against him, compared to .311 by right-handed hitters. But the Reds do not view the ground-ball pitcher as a one-out left-handed situational reliever.

"He's a guy that likes to pitch a full inning and expects to be in there to pitch a full inning," Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. "He's had a lot of success against lefties, but we are comfortable that he's not necessarily going to be a one-out guy."

Duke is returning to the Reds after pitching for them during the 2013 season, a stint that helped turn his career around after being released by the Nationals earlier that year. Duke had a 0.84 ERA in 14 relief appearances with Cincinnati.

After he departed the Reds as a free agent, Duke pitched for the Brewers, White Sox, Cardinals, Twins and Mariners. He's also previously pitched for the Pirates, D-backs and Nationals. The 2018 season saw Duke's ERA elevate, but his fielding independent percentage (FIP) dropped from 5.29 in '17 to 3.01 last year. That could be an indication that he had some bad luck or poor defense behind him in Minnesota and Seattle.

Reds pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz., on Tuesday and hold their first workout on Wednesday. Duke's addition makes the battle for bullpen spots even tighter.

Cincinnati already has right-handers Raisel Iglesias, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, and Michael Lorenzen with lefty Amir Garrett and now Duke likely locked in for roles. That could leave two spots -- or maybe just one -- up for grabs among Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Wandy Peralta and others.

"I think there's a good chance that we're prepared to carry eight relievers at times throughout the season, if not the majority of the season," Williams said. "A lot of that will depend on the starting rotation and how it produces."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Zach Duke