Skipper defends move to take out Duke
Russell explains why starter doesn't get complete game
CHICAGO -- Twenty-four hours after making the widely unpopular decision to pull starter Zach Duke from his outing as he stood one out away from a complete game, manager John Russell further explained all the factors that led to the move.
Following Monday's 11-1 win, Russell told reporters that he pulled Duke, who had thrown only 103 pitches in 8 2/3 innings, largely for two reasons. One, he wanted Duke to leave the mound to a standing ovation from those in attendance for the team's final home game of the season. Second, Russell wanted left-hander Donnie Veal to get some work out of the bullpen in preparation for pitching on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, though, Russell revealed more. He recounted a conversation that he and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan had during the sixth, a conversation during which Kerrigan told Russell that he did not want Duke pitching past the seventh. Kerrigan was concerned about some of the lengthy half-innings that had kept Duke sitting in the dugout. He also cited the fact that Duke was going to come back on four days' rest later this week for the first time since Sept. 2.
Kerrigan, too, wanted Veal to get in the game.
"Yeah, once the game gets out of hand, you'd like to see the guy get the shutout," Kerrigan said on Tuesday. "We were worried about Zach. He did get a little stiff there in the seventh and eighth innings."
Russell, seeing the potential for a shutout, decided that despite Kerrigan's suggestion he would give Duke the chance to get what would have been his fourth career shutout as long as the lefty continued to keep his pitch count low.
"I really wanted Zach to get the shutout," Russell said. "I convinced him that if Zach was not efficient or if we had another long inning offensively, we'd take him out. The whole plan was, if he lost the shutout we would take him out."
It just so happened that such a situation happened with two outs and a 10-run lead in the ninth, which was what drew the ire of fans, who booed incessantly as Russell walked to and from the mound to get Duke.
"It's understandable," Russell said of the fan's reaction. "I'm not by any stretch trying to slight the fans. We still have season left. It was a predetermined decision. There were a lot of factors involved. Unfortunately, it came out the way it did. I can understand the fans' reaction. It shows how passionate they are. We have to look at it different ways. Unfortunately, they can't be in the dugout and hear the discussions we have.
"It's something we really believed in and it's something we would do again."
In addition to wanting to put Duke in the best position possible for his next and final start of the season, Russell had hoped that by pulling the lefty before the inning's last out that he would receive the same appreciative ovation that a crowd at PNC Park gave starter Paul Maholm last summer when Maholm walked off the mound after pitching eight innings in a 4-2 win over the Yankees.
"It was a really nice moment for Paul, and I thought Zach would get the same thing yesterday," Russell said. "Unfortunately, they were so mad at me, they didn't really give Zach his moment."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.