Nationals sign Zack Duke, Bill Bray to bolster left-handed relief

Katherine Frey / The Washington Post

The Nationals added two left-handed relievers Monday afternoon to a bullpen that previously contained none, re-signing Zach Duke to be their long reliever and acquiring Bill Bray on a minor league deal, a team official said.

Duke will take the place of Tom Gorzelanny, whom the Nationals non-tendered on Friday night. Bray, who played for the Nationals in 2006 and spent most of last season recovering from a back injury, will compete for a spot in the bullpen

Duke, 29, signed a minor league deal with the Nationals last winter and spent last season at Class AAA Syracuse. Duke became the ace of the staff and went 15-5 with a 3.51 ERA over 26 starts. The Nationals added Duke to the 40-man roster and called him up in September, when he had a 1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 innings.

Duke became an all-star with Pittsburgh in 2009, but slowly lost his form until he fell out of the Pirates’ rotation. Duke revived his career with Nationals pitching coordinator Spin Williams, his pitching coach when he played for the Pirates.  

The Nationals sent Bray to the Reds in 2006 in the trade that brought outfielder Austin Kearns and second baseman Felipe Lopez to Washington.

Bray struggled through a back injury last year and pitched only 8 2/3 innings, walking 14 batters in that span. In his career, Bray has held left-handed batters to a .218 average and has struck out 8.6 batters per nine innings.

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