The Nationals have signed left-handed relief pitcher Zach Duke to a one-year contract for 2013, the team announced on Monday.

That’s a modest beginning to Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. But the team needed a lefty reliever and having a pitcher who can log multiple innings is a bonus. They lost that after non-tendering Tom Gorzelanny last week. It was a small sample size, but as a recall in September Duke had a 1.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. He allowed 11 hits, walked four and struck out 10.

Duke, 29, was also 15-5 with a 3.51 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse last season in 26 starts. The team apparently feels more comfortable turning to Duke in a starting role if injuries strike during the season and its depth is tested. He has a 4.52 career ERA and – for what it’s worth – was an N.L. All-Star in 2009 with Pittsburgh. Duke originally agreed to terms with the Nats on March 29, 2012 as a minor-league free agent.

Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez were the bullpen’s other two lefties last season and Washington would like the two free agents back – depending on the price, of course. And according to reports from Nashville, Rizzo “doesn’t see a financial fit” with Burnett right now. Duke is for now the only legitimate left-handed option, but that shouldn’t last.

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