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Duke ready for work as long reliever

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CINCINNATI -- Entering Friday's action, left-hander Zach Duke was the only reliever on the Nationals' 25-man roster who had yet to appear this season because the starting pitchers have gone deep into games.

When it comes to the late innings, the ball likely belongs to Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen or Rafael Soriano.

Duke understands the situation and is prepared to enter a game when called. Before games, Duke has bullpen sessions and throws on flat ground.

"I'm ready to go whenever," Duke said.

Duke is going into his first full season as a long reliever. He was considered the emergency starter to start the season until the Nationals signed right-hander Chris Young on Thursday. In his first six seasons in the big leagues, Duke was a starter for the Pirates.

"It's a little different, but through Spring Training, I felt great, feel healthy and I'm ready to get the ball whenever," Duke said.

The Reds have three left-handed hitters -- Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo -- in their starting lineup, so it wouldn't come as a surprise if Duke sees action in this series.

"I have a lot of familiarity with the Reds. I know Bruce and Votto. Choo is new to me. I've had success with the other guys. Hopefully, I will get in there," Duke said.

Duke entered the game against the Reds in Friday night's 15-0 loss and was hit hard, allowing six runs -- five earned -- in two and two-third innings.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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