Pirates Notebook: Duke eyes cleaner delivery


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PHILADELPHIA -- A year ago at Citizens Bank Park, Zach Duke essentially pitched his way into the All-Star Game: It was July 10, and he limited Philadelphia's potent lineup to three runs in an eight-inning complete game and impressed Charlie Manuel, manager of the Phillies and the National League, enough to make him a late addition.

Tonight, Duke will pitch off the same mound with a far different focus.

"I just need to get back to being me," Duke said Monday.

No one would dispute it. Since opening 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA through three starts, he is 0-4 with a 7.86 ERA in the past five, and opponents are batting .319 off him.

That makes this game a triple challenge in that he must figure out what ails him while not only facing that lineup again but also competing against Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay, 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA.

The key, according to Duke, is streamlining a delivery he described as being a bit exaggerated in recent outings.

"I just need to try not to do too much, which the competitiveness in me always wants," Duke said. "I always want to do more, always want to be better. When I do that, though, it tends to spiral the other way. It's a matter of being comfortable with what I'm doing, to be more in control."

Which makes it sound like he just needs to pitch more like fellow left-hander Paul Maholm.

"Yeah, pretty much," Duke replied to that with a smile.

Marte having surgery

Class A outfielder Starling Marte, one of the Pirates' top prospects, will have surgery on his left hand today to remove the hook of an injured hamate bone. He is expected to return to full action by August.

Marte was examined Monday by Dr. Mark Baratz, the team's hand specialist at Allegheny General Hospital, and Dr. Baratz will perform the surgery.

Removal of the hook of the hamate is somewhat common in baseball hand injuries. Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates' top prospect, had it done two years ago while at Vanderbilt University. It can sap a hitter's power for several months, but most regain that.

No rehab for Donnelly

Reliever Brendan Donnelly, on the disabled list because of a strained left side, will pitch a simulated inning today and, if that goes well, could be activated Wednesday or Thursday.

Manager John Russell said that Donnelly will not likely have to make a minor-league rehabilitation appearance.

Buried treasure

Daniel McCutchen, a starter at Class AAA Indianapolis, was placed on the minor-league disabled list because of a tired right arm, this after getting rocked for seven runs and 12 hits Saturday. Kyle Stark, director of player development, said McCutchen might miss only one or two starts.

• Another starter at Indianapolis, Brad Lincoln, made another stride toward Pittsburgh: He struck out 10 of the 26 batters he faced -- three runs, four hits, seven innings -- and was perfect through 5 1/3 in a 3-0 loss at Toledo.

Hunter Strickland, a pitcher acquired in the Adam LaRoche trade, was promoted to high Class A Bradenton from low Class A West Virginia. He was 0-4 with a 5.86 ERA in eight starts for the Power.


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


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