At first glance, the answer would be a resonating no.

When discussing Zach Duke though, it is important to take a glance behind his outrageous 2010 numbers and look deeper into what he would really mean to any organization moving forward in 2011.

At age 27, Duke has surpassed a point in his career where most pitchers at the Major League level have established themselves as talented assets, moving into the prime of their careers.

Duke’s case is quite unique, however, as the once highly anticipated Pittsburgh Pirates’ prospect has regressed into obscurity.

Following a 2010 campaign where Duke pitched to a record of 8-15, with an ERA of 5.72, he was designated for assignment by the Pirates Friday afternoon.

With numbers like that, it is hard to make a case for Duke to be an effective part of any pitching rotation in 2011, but with the Philadelphia Phillies, I’ll make a special case.

The Phillies will be heading into the 2011 season in the conversation for having the best rotation in baseball.

Anchored by 2010 National League Cy Young Award winner, Roy Halladay, the Phillies will follow their ace up with dominant pitchers in their own right, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, and serviceable right-hander, Joe Blanton, to round out their rotation.

One through four, the Phillies have a solid rotation. However, the fifth starter’s position is going to be up for grabs, and the Phillies have little organizational depth to create competition.

This is where a guy like Zach Duke could become beneficial to an organization like the Phillies, who undoubtedly will try to round up some competition to compete for that fifth starter’s spot and draw the best out of each of the competitors.

A few in-house names will already compete for the job, headlined by guys who have each started a game for the Phillies in 2010: Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley and Andrew Carpenter.

The trio features a couple of unique angles. On one hand, Kendrick has been a serviceable starter for the Phillies over the course of his career, posting a career record of 35 – 24 and an ERA of 4.69.

However, some of Kendrick’s 2010 numbers have become a cause for concern in the organization, highlighted by the worst Strikeouts per nine Innings (K/9) among qualifying pitchers, in Major League Baseball (just 4.18).

A lot of minds surrounding the Phillies’ organization believe that Kendrick isn’t even the favorite to win the job out of Spring Training, bestowing that honor upon another Phillies’ right-hander, Vance Worley.

Although his time in the major league was brief in 2010, Worley impressed all the right people, including manager Charlie Manuel.

Worley logged a total of 13 innings with the Phillies in 2010, posting an impressive ERA of 1.38.

Worley showed that he doesn’t have to rely on his fastball to retire professional hitters, throwing his breaking pitches, an overhand curve-ball and a slider, a combined 29.9 percent of the time, mixing in a low-90s fastball and a change-up as well.

The final member of the obvious, in-house trio is the least likely of the three to break with the big league club, right-hander Andrew Carpenter.

His time with the 2010 Phillies was very brief, as he only saw three innings of work with the big league club, and allowed three earned runs over that span.

While only one of these three have a chance to crack the rotation, it’s likely that at least one other will make the Phillies bullpen as well.

So, where does Zach Duke fit in all of this, you wonder?

Duke has lived in basic obscurity over the past couple of seasons with the bottom dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates, for a while, serving as the ace of a weak pitching staff.

Called up to the major leagues at a young age, only 22, Duke provides what many 27-year-olds don’t in the big leagues—experience.

A team like the Phillies will be interested in bringing in experienced starting pitchers to show what they’ve got in Spring Training, providing competition to young guys like Vance Worley and Drew Carpenter, while sending Kyle Kendrick the subliminal message that he won’t just be handed a spot in the 2011 rotation.

Over the course of the past three seasons, Duke has had success pitching in Citizens Bank Park, one of the reasons the Phillies may give him a look.

In two starts there, Duke pitched to a 1-1 record, with an ERA 2.57. The only ballparks he’s been more successful in were AT&T Park in San Francisco and PETCO Park in San Diego.

The Phillies will consider a number of variables. Can Duke regain his form? Is his 2010 decrease in velocity going to be a constant decline? Are his numbers in the Bank a fluke?

Can he perform better as a bottom of the rotation arm, in the shadows of decorated aces like Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels?

Surely, he’ll be on the Phillies free agent radar in a weak market. Who knows? Maybe Duke wins the job out of Spring Training and reclaims his 2005 form, where he was 8-2 with an ERA of 1.81.

The Phillies will need to take a chance on him to find out.

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