Zach Duke struck with comebacker, has broken hand

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The Diamondbacks acquired Zach Duke in a trade with the Pirates this winter with the intention of adding depth to their starting rotation. Arizona was thinking that the 27-year-old southpaw would do well with a change of scenery after finishing with a 5.72 ERA over 29 starts for the Bucs in 2010.

But things have been a bit rocky this spring.

Duke has allowed a whopping 18 hits and eight runs over his first eight innings of Cactus League play and he was forced from his Saturday evening appearance against the Rockies after taking a line drive off the back of his pitching hand.

Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic caught up with Duke on Sunday morning. He sounded optimistic about the injury being minor, though he offered no explanation for his recent struggles on the mound.

“I can move my fingers,” said Duke. “Obviously, there’s discomfort. But I feel pretty good about it. . . . They did some tests, some trainers’ tests where they pushed on my knuckles and everything. I didn’t have any sharp, shooting pains or anything.”

The D’Backs will likely scratch Duke from his next scheduled start as a precautionary measure. He should be healthy in about a week, but effectiveness may continue to escape him right on through Opening Day.

UPDATE: Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Duke has two broken bones in his pitching hand and won’t throw a baseball for at least the next month.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.