Zachary Thomas "Zach" Duke (born April 19, 1983) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, and Chicago White Sox.
Duke was born in Clifton, Texas. He was drafted directly out of Midway High School in Waco, Texas, in the 20th round of the 2001 draft, and began his career the following year with the Pirates' rookie level Gulf Coast League team. He spent 2003 with the low-A Hickory Crawdads.
In 2004, Duke led all minor league pitchers with a 1.46 earned run average (24 earned runs in 148.1 innings pitched). He posted a 15-6 record in 26 combined starts between Class-A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona, and his 15 wins tied for third-most among all minor league pitchers.
Following the 2004 season, Duke was named Pittsburgh's Minor League Pitcher-of-the-Year and earned Carolina League Pitcher-of-the-Year honors. He was selected by Baseball America as the sixth-best prospect in the Eastern League and the best pitching prospect (fourth-best prospect overall) in the Carolina League. He was also recognized by the publication as having the best breaking pitch in the league.
Duke made his major league debut on July 2, 2005 against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out nine and receiving a no-decision in the Pirates 5-3 loss. His nine strikeouts were the most by a Pirate making their MLB debut since Tim Wakefield on July 31, 1992.
Duke's debut month included a 3-0 shutout victory against Greg Maddux and the Cubs on July 16 and 22 consecutive scoreless innings from July 2 to July 21. He was named National League Rookie of the month for July while compiling a 0.87 ERA, the best among all starting pitchers in the Major Leagues.
He became only the second Pittsburgh rookie to win his first 5 decisions, along with Whitey Glazner. He also became one of only four pitchers during the Live-ball era to record an ERA below 1.00 in their first six starts (the others being Fernando Valenzuela, Boo Ferriss and Steve Rogers). Duke finished 2005 with an 8-2 record in 14 starts, striking out 58 in 84.2 innings. He finished in fifth place in the Rookie of the Year voting, garnering 10% of the vote.
Duke's first full season with the Pirates was as the new team ace, anchoring a very young rotation with Ian Snell. Duke had a number of good starts in the first half of the season, but many of them were undone by the Pirates' weak bullpen and lack of run support for Duke. The second half of 2006 was a re-emergence of the Duke that had dazzled Pittsburgh with his stuff from the previous year, and, on a side note, it was the first time the Pirates had compiled a winning record for a half of a season since 1992. Duke recorded 2 complete game efforts, the only 2 that Pittsburgh had all season. His first was a shutout of the Chicago Cubs on May 2, but he only had 2 strikeouts and a walk. His better effort was on August 11 against the St. Louis Cardinals. While he scattered 8 hits, Duke only allowed 1 run (it was earned), recorded no walks and 7 strikeouts. Duke also threw 11 fewer pitches than his previous complete game effort, and recorded 14 ground-ball outs. Duke's final line for the 2006 season was 10-15 with a 4.47 ERA and 117 strikeouts against 68 walks. Duke also became the first Pirates starter since Kris Benson in 2000 to throw more than 200 innings with 215 and 1/3 innings pitched.
In 2008, he gave up more doubles than any other pitcher in the majors, with 58, and more sacrifice hits, with 14.
Zach Duke was named to the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, replacing the injured Matt Cain. He finished off 2009 with an 11-16 record, a 4.06 era, 3 complete games, 1 shutout, 23 home runs given up, only 3 hit batsmen, 49 walks, 106 strikeouts, a .285 average against, 1.31 walks and hits per innings pitched, and 213 inning pitched.
On November 24, 2010, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Duke to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later, determined to be César Valdez.
On May 28, 2011, Duke was activated off the disabled list and made his first start with the Arizona Diamondbacks, replacing Micah Owings in the rotation. He also hit his first major league home run that day, a three-run home run off of Bud Norris. Duke made 9 starts in the rotation, going 2-4 with a 5.47 ERA, and opponents hitting .336/.368/.481 off of him. On July 15, Duke was relocated to the bullpen, where he fared slightly better in a long-relief role, recording a 3.86 ERA in 25.2 innings, only striking out 6 while walking 8. Overall in 2011, Duke was 3-4 with a 4.91 ERA in 21 appearances.
Duke signed a minor league contract with the Houston Astros on January 27, 2012. He also received an invitation to spring training; however, he was released on March 27.
Duke signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals on March 29, 2012 playing for the Washington Nationals's AAA affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. He was brought up to the majors and relieved Stephen Strasburg in the third inning in what was to be Strasburg's final home appearance of the 2012 season.
On December 2, 2012, Duke resigned with the Nationals on a 1-year deal to serve as the team's long reliever. He was designated for assignment on June 4, 2013.
On June 10, 2013, Duke was released by Washington.
Duke signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds on June 13, 2013. He eventually was promoted to the big league club and recorded an 0.84 ERA in ten and two-thirds innings pitched.
Duke was invited to spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers for 2014 and made the roster as a left-handed relief specialist. He recorded his first win of 2014 on April 20 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Duke had emerged as a key member of the Brewers' bullpen, finding success against lefties and righties. As of July 21, his ERA was a minuscule 1.16, and he had struck out 49 batters in 38 1/3 innings pitched. He finished the year strong, recording a 2.45 ERA with 74 strikeouts to only 17 walks in 58.2 innings, appearing in 74 games and notching 12 holds. He limited left-handed hitters to a .198 batting average.
Chicago White Sox
Duke signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Chicago White Sox on November 18, 2014.
St. Louis Cardinals
On July 31, 2016, the White Sox traded Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Charlie Tilson. On October 14, 2016, it was revealed that Duke underwent surgery to repair a forearm flexor muscle and UCL in his left arm, which rendered him unable to participate for the entire 2017 season.
He married Kristin Gross in Evansville, Indiana, in November 2007. They met when she was an emcee for the Indianapolis Indians. His best man was former Pirates closer Matt Capps. They reside in Gallatin, Tennessee.