09/19/07 7:58 PM ET
Notes: Duke back in rotation vs. Cubs
Left-hander to get first start after battling elbow tendinitis
By Sandy Burgin / Special to MLB.com
Duke, a 24-year-old left-hander, will make his first start since June 28 when he was shut down with elbow tendinitis. He had been rehabbing for nearly three months, then made his first relief effort Saturday in Houston after starting 65 games.
This Saturday, Duke will be back on the mound at Wrigley Field, where he is 3-1 lifetime with a 1.42 ERA.
"I've had some pretty good memories of pitching at Wrigley, and it's just going to be something where a lot of hard work is going to be paid off there," Duke said prior to Wednesday's night game with the Padres.
"I had my first complete game shutout there. I usually pitch pretty well there," said Duke. "It's fun to pitch there."
It was fun to pitch anywhere in 2005, when Duke went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA after being called up in July. In fact, Duke had an ERA of 0.92 after his first six starts in the Majors. In 2004, Duke had led all of Minor League baseball with a 1.46 ERA. But since then, Duke has gone 13-22 with a 4.85 ERA. That includes his 3-7 record and 5.70 ERA this season.
Asked if he can get back to his glory days, Duke said, "Absolutely, I believe I can get back to that level. The elbow is good now. I'm fine now and ready for the start.
"Rehabbing has been tough," Duke added, "It's been a long struggle and it seems like it shouldn't have taken this long, but it does. It's been a mental struggle, but it's just something you have to go through when you're hurt."
The Pirates are anxious to see how Duke comes back and are hopeful that he will make two starts before the end of the season.
"We're looking forward to see him do this," said Tracy. "I know it's exactly what he wants. Our plan all along once he began his rehab assignment was to eventually get him to the point where we were able to start him, and we were encouraged by what we saw in his outing out of the bullpen [three innings] in Houston. We picked a spot in Chicago where obviously it's a very important series to them, but when you look at Zach Duke and his track record in Chicago particularly against the Cubs, this could be a good spot."
Tracy also noted that the Cubs have struggled this season against left-handers. They are 16-22 against lefties, and the Pirates will throw three southpaws, Paul Maholm, Duke and Tom Gorzelanny against them this weekend.
Wilson injury update: Shortstop Jack Wilson, who suffered tightness in his right hamstring running out of the batter's box Tuesday night and had to leave the game, was not in the starting lineup Wednesday.
"They [the training staff] have been working on him this afternoon, and I doubt if he will be available to play for us tonight," Tracy said.
Wilson is scheduled to stay in California, where his wife, Julie, is having induced labor Friday for their third child. Wilson is scheduled to fly to Chicago for Sunday's game with the Cubs.
Further paternity news: The Pirates were hoping that Salomon Torres would be back in the bullpen for Wednesday night's game. Torres was with his wife, Belkis, who gave birth to a boy, Jordan, on Tuesday in Pittsburgh after having a Caesarian section.
Players normally get three days for paternity, but Torres and Wilson were told that they would prefer that they have two days, if that worked out, because the Padres and Cubs are in the midst of division and Wild Card races and Pirates want to put up their best lineup.
On deck: Righty Matt Morris (9-10, 4.84 ERA) will make his 10th start with the Pirates and 31st overall at 3:35 p.m. ET Thursday afternoon in the four-game series finale. He has recovered from a bruised pitching hand. He will be opposed by righty Brett Tomko (3-11, 5.40).
Sandy Burgin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.