Pirates Notebook: Duke gets rotation reprieve

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NEW YORK -- Zach Duke will take at least one more turn in the Pirates' rotation.

"The kid's worked hard," manager John Russell said in announcing his decision Thursday at Citi Field. "I'd like to give him the opportunity to straighten some things out."

Duke's next scheduled start is Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it had appeared there was a good chance someone else would make it after Russell was visibly displeased with Duke giving up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings in a 9-1 loss three nights ago. Russell, general manager Neal Huntington and pitching coach Ray Searage met Wednesday to discuss the matter, and Russell made his decision the same day.

Russell sounded heartened that Duke had what Russell described as a "much better" side session Thursday.

"He had better tempo, better arm speed," Russell said. "We took some hitters down to watch him, too. He was good. Hopefully, that's something he can build off. He looked more ... Zach-ish, I would say."

Russell was reminded that he said after Duke's latest dud that Duke had consistently looked good in side sessions.

"This was a little different. He was a little less choppy, more fluid, more aggressive down in the zone."

Duke, 7-14 with a 5.78 ERA, is third-time eligible for salary arbitration this winter, but it is highly unlikely the Pirates will tender a contract, given that the process almost assures he will get a raise from his current $4.3 million salary.

Trade reunion

Tonight will mark the Pirates' first meeting with Arizona since the five-player trade that brought catcher Chris Snyder, shortstop Pedro Ciriaco and $3 million to Pittsburgh and sent outfielder Ryan Church, reliever D.J. Carrasco and shortstop Bobby Crosby to the Diamondbacks.

Snyder expressed appreciation toward Arizona for trading him when it was clear Miguel Montero would be the starting catcher there.

"I have no hard feelings," he said. "They tried on numerous occasions to trade me, and I didn't look at it as they didn't like me. They had a situation where I was the one who was not in their future plans."

Carrasco, as eager to be traded as Snyder had been, was asked Thursday in Cincinnati his view of the Pirates, and he commented on the clubhouse atmosphere.

"You would think there's a lot of negative energy from losing all the time," Carrasco said. "But, in my opinion, when I was there, the guys don't take it seriously enough that they're losing all the time. That's something that needs to be worked on internally from the players themselves, to have a pride issue of getting beat up every day. It didn't seem like that. I'm sure the staff cares big-time, but it didn't seem the players cared as much as the staff."

Buried treasure

• Pitcher Brian Bass cleared outright waivers and accepted his assignment to Class AAA Indianapolis.

Jeff Karstens extended his long-tossing to 75 feet and "felt great," another sign that might pitch again -- in relief -- this season.

• Starter Ross Ohlendorf made national headlines for his internship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture last winter, but he has no such plans for the coming offseason. "If I tried something like that again, it would be a different experience," he said. His focus, he added, would remain baseball.

• The Pirates are 0-7 at Citi Field since its opening last year.

Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more online at PBC Blog .


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