Astros sign Zach Duke to minor-league deal

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Zach Duke, who spent last season with the Diamondbacks, has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Astros.

Duke was once considered a top prospect for the Pirates, but had a 4.54 ERA over six seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded to Arizona last offseason.

He posted a 4.93 ERA in 77 innings split between the rotation and bullpen, but missed time with a broken hand and struck out a measly 3.8 batters per nine innings. Not surprisingly the Diamondbacks declined his $5.5 million option for 2012, paying Duke a $750,000 buyout instead.

Houston can certainly use plenty of pitching depth, but barring the Astros trading a veteran starter he’ll probably be competing for a long relief gig.

Alex Wood to try pitching out of the stretch

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Pedro Moura of The Athletic reports that Dodgers starter Alex Wood plans to pitch out of the stretch throughout the 2018 season. Wood got the idea when he watched Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg pitch against the Dodgers.

Wood, 27, finished last season 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and a 151/38 K/BB ratio in 152 1/3 innings. That’s a mighty fine season, one in which many pitchers would not dare to mess with something that isn’t broken.

Interestingly, Wood indeed has had better results with runners on base — when he would pitch out of the stretch — as opposed to the bases being empty, with a respective OPS allowed of .523 versus .684, respectively. Over his career, he has allowed a .617 OPS with runners on and .706 with the bases empty.

In response to Moura’s tweet about Wood, retired pitchers Dan Haren and Jered Weaver took the opportunity to burn themselves. Haren tweeted, “I pitched a few seasons completely out of the stretch actually, just not by choice.” Weaver responded, “Sometimes I would just step off and throw the ball in the gap myself because I knew the hitter would do it anyways.”