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.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.