The White Sox took the first step toward revamping their beleaguered bullpen by signing journeyman left-hander Zach Duke to a three-year, $15 million deal on Tuesday.
The White Sox will be Duke’s fourth team in the last three seasons. The 31-year-old went 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA this year in Milwaukee.
Duke isn’t a splashy signing, but he is an upgrade for a White Sox bullpen that includes left-handed relievers Scott Snodgress and Eric Surkamp. He also comes at a cheaper price than Andrew Miller, in whom the White Sox have reportedly shown a great deal of interest.
The White Sox will pay Duke $4.5 million in 2015, $5 million in 2016 and $5.5 million in 2017.
Duke entered the majors as a starting pitcher prospect for the Pirates in 2005, when he finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. But the left-hander never put together another winning season in Pittsburgh, was designated for assignment in 2010 and then traded to Arizona.
He signed a minor-league contract with the Astros and then the Nationals in 2012, resurfacing with a role in relief and being much better for it.
Duke pitched out of the Bullpen for the Nats and Reds before joining the Brewers last season.
His effectiveness as a reliever is apparent with a 7.50 strikeout-per-nine rate and 2.74 strikeout-per-walk rate. As a starter, those stats are 4.9 and 1.94, respectively.
Duke pitched 58 2/3 innings last season for the Brewers and struck out 74 batters against 17 walks. He made 14 consecutive scoreless appearances from April 12-May 10 and 16 in a row from June 22-July 30 and was voted Milwaukee’s Pitcher of the Month for July.
Fixing the bullpen is a high priority for White Sox general manager Rick Hahn after a 2014 season in which the club blew 21 of 57 save opportunities and had a 4.38 ERA in relief.