Pirates designate Zach Duke, Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche for assignment

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MLB teams had until the end of the day Friday to set their 40-man rosters before the Rule 5 Draft, so the Pirates did a little bit of housecleaning. Zach Duke, Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche were all designated for assignment, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. All three were arbitration-eligible this fall, so these roster moves essentially serve as early non-tenders.

Duke posted a 5.72 ERA over 29 starts this past season, the highest ERA among NL starters with at least 150 innings pitched. The 27-year-old left-hander is 37-68 with a 4.80 ERA since he went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA over his first 14 major league starts in 2005. It doesn’t help that he’s been on such an awful team, but no pitcher has lost more games since the start of the 2006 season.

Duke doesn’t strike out many batters (4.7 K/9), but he does induce a fair amount of groundballs (48.9 percent) and throws strikes (2.45 BB/9). With a better defense behind him, there’s no reason why he can’t be a decent No. 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told Langosch that he tried to negotiate a contract with Duke before cutting him loose, so it’s clear the Pirates still believe he has some value, just not at the near $5 million he would have made in arbitration.

LaRoche, who came over in the Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez deal in July of 2008, batted just .226/.296/.341 with 19 homers, 92 RBI and a 637 OPS over 1,044 plate appearances as a member of the Pirates. The former top prospect hit .258 with 12 homers, 68 RBI and a 731 OPS as the team’s full-time third baseman last season and moved into a utility role after Pedro Alvarez was called up to the major leagues this past June. Still, with a good glove and decent plate discipline, the 27-year-old shouldn’t have a problem finding another opportunity in the big leagues.

Young, 28, batted .236/.286/.414 with seven home runs, 28 RBI and a 700 OPS in 207 plate appearances this season, primarily off the bench. He led the Pirates with 16 pinch-hits, but batted just .232 (16-for-69) in pinch-hit situations. His ability to play second base, third base and the outfield will help him land another gig, but he is generally regarded as a poor defensive player.

Jorge Polanco suspended 80 games after testing positive for Stanozolol

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MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports that Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug Stanozolol.

In a statement, via Dan Hayes of The Athletic, Polanco denied knowingly using the substance. Polanco said, “To be clear, I did not intentionally consume this steroid. I now know, however, that my intention alone is not a good enough excuse and I will pay the price for my error in judgment. The substance that I requested from my athletic trainer in the Dominican Republic and consented to take was a combination of vitamin B12 and an iron supplement, something that is not unusual or illegal for professional athletes to take. Unfortunately, what I was given was not that supplement and I take full responsibility for what is in my body.”

Last year was Polanco’s first full season in the majors. He hit .256/.313/.410 with 13 home runs, 74 RBI, 60 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 544 plate appearances.

The Twins have Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, or Erick Aybar to handle shortstop while Polanco is out. The club could also give the starting job to prospect Nick Gordon, ranked No. 4 in the Twins’ system according to MLB Pipeline. Gordon had a solid 2017 campaign at Double-A Chattanooga, posting a .749 OPS with 29 doubles and 13 steals in 578 PA.