Duke felt a little discomfort in the muscle close to his elbow during the fourth or fifth inning of his start on Wednesday. The lefty ended up finishing 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs in the game.
"I realized my pitches were the way they usually are," Duke said. "The velocity was down. The location was down. I just want to get it taken care of before it turns into something worse."
Both Duke and manager John Russell described the decision to hold Duke back as purely precautionary given that no one expects the lefty to miss any extended period of time. The Pirates' medical staff believes that the ailment is nothing more than a mild strain, and Duke is scheduled to throw a side session on Wednesday. If all goes well with that, he will jump back into the rotation to face Oakland next weekend.
"If it goes without a hitch, Saturday would be the day," Duke said. "But if for some reason I don't feel right, I'm not going to risk anything."
Duke said he hadn't had any problems with his elbow at any point earlier this season, though he did experience similar discomfort in 2007. He tried to pitch through it, though that didn't last long. The lefty ended up being shelved from June 28 to Sept. 15 with left elbow tendinitis.
"I don't want to go through that again," Duke said. "Lesson learned."
Because of an off-day on Monday, the rest of the rotation can stick in order even with Duke skipped. That means that Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm and Jeff Karstens will now face the Rangers.
In 14 starts this year, Duke is 3-8 with a 5.49 ERA. He has won just once since April 20.