Bullpen, bench all but set as Brewers make moves
Barring a last-minute addition or subtraction, the Brewers’ Opening Day roster appears set.
The Brewers made their final moves Tuesday, advising non-roster invitee Zach Duke he would make the team and optioning right-hander Rob Wooten and infielder Elian Herrera to Triple-A Nashville. As a result of those moving pieces, the Opening Day roster looks like this:
Will Smith (L)
Zach Duke (L)
Wei-Chung Wang (L)
The Brewers had to inform Duke of his status by Tuesday morning because of a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that affects veteran players on Minor League deals. He reported for work with no idea how the day would play out.
“Honestly, I had no idea,” Duke said. “There are so many factors that go into these decisions that you never know. I felt confident that I had performed well enough to get a big league job somewhere, and I’m thankful that it’s here. It’s a good day for my family.”
Duke endured the opposite outcome two years ago, when the Astros released him right at the end of camp. This time was different.
“The difference from 2012 was I pitched my way off that team with the Astros in ’12, and I feel like I pitched my way on this one,” Duke said. “I’m a different pitcher now, different role that I’m going to be in, differently equipped to take on hitters. I feel like this is a good fit.”
Duke was a starter with Houston, but will be the closest the Brewers have a a left-handed specialist in a bullpen that features three left-handed relievers. To fit that niche, Duke has added a cut fastball to his arsenal, and has also begun throwing a various arm slots to “give hitters more to think about.”
Has he seen many bullpens with three southpaws?
“Yeah, they’re out there,” Duke said. “I was in a situation in Washington last year where I was the only lefty, and I didn’t get used because of it. I feel like for a manager, the more options they have to play matchups, the more apt they are to do the matchups.”
Asked whether making a club as a non-roster invitee was extra rewarding, Duke said, “It absolutely is. There’s no consequences if they get rid of you. So yeah, being a non-roster guy, coming in and making a team, I feel like I definitely opened up eyes and made them believe in me. It’s a very rewarding feeling.”
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