As a once highly rated starting pitching prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, left-hander Zach Duke likely had visions of what his first big money contract would look like. Chances are, it looked nothing like the one he signed with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. The 31-year-old starter-turned-reliever inked a three-year, $15 million deal . That’s obviously far from the big money he would have made as a top flight starter, but it does set the bar high for this winter’s free agent relievers. Considering where Duke’s career seemed to be headed after flaming out in Pittsburgh, he’ll absolutely take that distinction.  In parts of six seasons as a full-time starter for the Pirates, Duke went 45-70 with a 4.54 ERA over 159 starts. Fine for a back-end starter, but Pittsburgh had higher hopes. Accepting that a breakthrough to the upper echelon was unlikely, Duke was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in November of 2010 for marginal pitching prospect Cesar Valdez. It was there that his new career path would be established, but he was far from an overnight success.  “It’s a blow to the ego a bit when you get fired from a position,” Duke said of his transition to the ‘pen. “I felt like I was asked to no longer be a starter. That was a tough pill to swallow for a while. But once I kind of embraced the role of being a reliever, I had to take a step back and figure some things out and figure out how I was going to get an opportunity as a reliever.” After posting a 3.86 ERA in 12 relief appearances for Arizona, Duke signed as a free agent with the Houston Astros prior to the 2012 campaign, but failed to make the team. Still struggling to find his niche, Duke nearly pitched himself out of the league, posting an 8.71 ERA in 12 appearances with Washington in 2013. After a quick stint with the Cincinnati Reds, it was back to the drawing board with the hopes of one more shot.  That shot would come with the Milwaukee Brewers. who signed Duke to a minor-league deal in January. Reinvented with a sidearm delivery and a heavier reliance on two-seam fastballs, sliders and curveballs, Duke finally flourished. In a career-high 74 appearances, Duke posted a 2.45 ERA while striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings. That more than doubled his 4.7 career rate coming in.  Granted, it was only one season of success, but Duke’s breakout season coupled with his new arm slot and altered approach quickly established him as a desirable free agent target. Adding to his value is the fact he was nearly as tough on right-handed hitters (242/.288/.298 against) as he was left-handed hitters (198/.267/.302). Those numbers could ticket him for a late-inning role. “He, in our opinion, was one of the most desirable relievers out on the market,” Hahn said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “He was a player that we targeted very early in the process, that we were aggressive on and needed to be given his popularity in the market.” All things taken into account, it would appear Duke is on track to become the next promising starter reinvented into a dominant reliever story in baseball, if he’s not there already. It’s a story that’s not all that unfamiliar in baseball’s current climate. In fact, this season’s World Series featured two of the more prominent stories in Kansas City Royals set up man Wade Davis and San Francisco Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt. Still, it’s a notable story if for no other reason than it highlights the character of players who were knocked down, swallowed their pride and returned with a renewed purpose.  If Duke proves to be on that level, Chicago will have a bargain deal. As for free agent relievers similar to Duke, like say Andrew Miller, they’re just happy Chicago upped the ante and provided an appealing reference point for their own negotiations.  More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: – - – - – - – Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 26th, 2014
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DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers have designated outfielder Ezequiel Carrera for assignment.

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 26th, 2014
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DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers have claimed right-handed reliever Josh Zeid on waivers from the Houston Astros.

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 25th, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Texas Rangers have selected the contracts of four top prospects from their minor league system to protect them from next month’s winter meetings draft.

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 25th, 2014
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There’s a good chance you haven’t heard, because nobody is talking about this or posting about it on Facebook, but Kim Kardashian unleashed another attention-getting stunt this week . Shocking, right? She showed up on the cover of Paper Magazine showing off her big naked butt in meme-making fashion . She eventually showed off more of her naked body , but hey, we can’t talk too much about that. Kids might be reading. Anyhow, the Fresno Grizzlies — the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros — and their mascot Parker, thought the now-famous Kardashian booty pic could use a little bit of fur: . @TheRealParkerB is on fleek. #BreakTheInternet pic.twitter.com/W10UGPSf0q — Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) November 13, 2014 They weren’t the only ones. The Lake Elsinore Storm — the Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres — had their mascot Thunder show off his tail too (he’s a dog).  Can’t believe @papermagazine went with their second choice @KimKardashian #BreakTheInternet @milb @espn @TMZ @bensbiz pic.twitter.com/S7aEdNxofO — Thunder (@ThundertheDog) November 12, 2014 After the Paper Magazine cover circulated, comic Chelsea Handler posted her butt in response and people enjoyed that. But we at The Stew are partial to baseball mascots, particularly ones who mock Kim Kardashian. More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: – - – - – - – Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 14th, 2014
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TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy welcomed members of Major League Baseball’s All-Star tour at her residence on Friday.

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 14th, 2014
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There’s a good chance you haven’t heard, because nobody is talking about this or posting about it on Facebook, but Kim Kardashian unleashed another attention-getting stunt this week . Shocking, right? She showed up on the cover of Paper Magazine showing off her big naked butt in meme-making fashion . She eventually showed off more of her naked body , but hey, we can’t talk too much about that. Kids might be reading. Anyhow, the Fresno Grizzlies — the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros — and their mascot Parker, thought the now-famous Kardashian booty pic could use a little bit of fur: . @TheRealParkerB is on fleek. #BreakTheInternet pic.twitter.com/W10UGPSf0q — Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) November 13, 2014 After the Paper Magazine cover circulated, comic Chelsea Handler posted her butt in response and people enjoyed that. But we at The Stew are partial to baseball mascot, particularly ones who mock Kim Kardashian. More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: – - – - – - – Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 13th, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — Houston designated hitter Chris Carter, Kansas City reliever Kelvin Herrera and New York Mets closer Jennry Mejia are among 26 players with less than three years of major league service who have qualified for salary arbitration.

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 12th, 2014
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DETROIT (AP) — The Tigers have hired David Newhan as their assistant hitting coach.

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 11th, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — Jose Abreu and Jacob deGrom were far from the major leagues at the start of 2013.

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Post info: By HoustonAstrosFan on November 11th, 2014
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