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Duke would welcome return to Cardinals

Lefty performed well after return from Tommy John surgery
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' desire to retool their bullpen this winter has already led them to show interest in re-signing free-agent-to-be Juan Nicasio, who spent the final four weeks of the 2017 season with St. Louis. But could they also target another reliever soon to come off their 40-man roster?

Zach Duke, a 13-year veteran and one of four Cardinals due to enter free agency at the conclusion of the World Series, intends to continue pitching, and his expedited return from Tommy John surgery gave Duke the opportunity to show that he still can.

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' desire to retool their bullpen this winter has already led them to show interest in re-signing free-agent-to-be Juan Nicasio, who spent the final four weeks of the 2017 season with St. Louis. But could they also target another reliever soon to come off their 40-man roster?

Zach Duke, a 13-year veteran and one of four Cardinals due to enter free agency at the conclusion of the World Series, intends to continue pitching, and his expedited return from Tommy John surgery gave Duke the opportunity to show that he still can.

He did not engage in exploratory conversations with the Cardinals in-season about a potential extension, but noted that he would welcome a return to the organization that acquired him in July 2016.

"Obviously we'll see how things play out, but I like it here," Duke, 34, said. "I love the guys here. I've had a great experience throughout. They run a real good organization. I'd certainly love to come back."

Though he may not draw the sort of widespread interest he did when he signed a three-year, $15-million contract with the White Sox in 2014, Duke is likely to be of interest to multiple teams. The Cardinals have not publicly indicated if they will be one of them.

Duke's quicker-than-expected recovery from reconstructive elbow surgery takes the guesswork away for clubs that may have wondered how he'd return from the surgery. The lefty made his season debut for the Cardinals in July, just nine months after the procedure.

He fought command issues in those first few weeks back on the mound before finishing the season with two runs allowed over his last 16 appearances. In those 10 1/3 innings, Duke struck out eight and walked one.

"For me, more than anything, it was mentally a relief knowing that I could get back to the level that I wanted to be at," Duke said. "Really, after the first two weeks of outings, I feel like I performed really well, especially the last month. My elbow feels good. I'm throwing well. So I'm pretty excited.

"Whoever wants me next year is going to get a good performance from me. Hopefully somebody wants me."

Medical updates

Aside from Adam Wainwright, who underwent a right elbow procedure two days after the season ended, no other players on the Cardinals' 40-man roster required surgery this month, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak confirmed.

Wainwright's elbow arthroscopy procedure went as planned, and Mozeliak said the Cardinals "are optimistic" that the 36-year-old right-hander will have a full recovery ahead of Spring Training. That recovery plan calls for six weeks of rest, followed by rehab. The timing of the surgery should allow Wainwright ample time to engage in a normal offseason program.

Matt Carpenter (right shoulder) and Kolten Wong (lower back), both of whom ended the season sidelined due to injury, were prescribed therapy by the team's medical staff. Mozeliak said there are no long-term concerns about the issues lingering for either infielder.

Aledmys Diaz, who strained his hamstring in the club's last game, is at home recovering.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Zach Duke, Adam Wainwright