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White Sox manager Robin Ventura called Sunday "a tough day" for his team after the front office traded left-handed reliever Zach Duke to the Cardinals for Triple-A outfielder Charlie Tilson.Ventura and the Sox players will have to wait and see if...

Robin Ventura: White Sox trading Zach Duke to Cardinals a 'tough one'

White Sox manager Robin Ventura called Sunday "a tough day" for his team after the front office traded left-handed reliever Zach Duke to the Cardinals for Triple-A outfielder Charlie Tilson.Ventura and the Sox players will have to wait and see if...

 Robin Ventura: White Sox trading Zach Duke to Cardinals a 'tough one'

White Sox manager Robin Ventura called Sunday "a tough day" for his team after the front office traded left-handed reliever Zach Duke to the Cardinals for Triple-A outfielder Charlie Tilson.

Ventura and the Sox players will have to wait and see if Monday will be an even tougher one.

In parting with a steady veteran bullpen presence like Duke, the Sox demonstrated their willingness to move key pieces to bolster their future. The Sox have plenty of valuable players they could move before Monday's 3 p.m. deadline, so the focus of a day off before the Tigers series will be whether trade speculation will amount to anything, especially involving pitchers such as Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, James Shields and David Robertson.

"It's a tough one, any time you give up a good guy like (Duke), a big presence inside our clubhouse and very effective pitcher," Ventura said. "To see a guy like that go out the door, it's tough on everyone. I don't know necessarily what it all means beyond that, but we lost a good one today."

General manager Rick Hahn delivered the message that a sell-off was possible earlier this month when he proclaimed the team "mired in mediocrity," so the Sox players wouldn't be shocked by it.

"It's the players' fault," outfielder Adam Eaton said. "We play up to what we're capable of playing and it's not even a discussion. Rick has got to do what he's got to do to put us in the best position to be good now and later."

Tilson, a New Trier graduate, was ranked the No. 12 prospect in the Cardinals system by MLB.com.

Charlie Tilson Guillermo Hernandez Martinez / The News-Leader

Charlie Tilson hits a double during the third inning against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in a minor league baseball game July 15, 2015, in Springfield, Mo.

Charlie Tilson hits a double during the third inning against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in a minor league baseball game July 15, 2015, in Springfield, Mo.

(Guillermo Hernandez Martinez / The News-Leader)

He was hitting .282 with 16 doubles, eight triples, four home runs, 53 runs scored, 15 stolen bases and a .345 on-base percentage over 100 games with Triple-A Memphis this season.

In consecutive seasons, Baseball America ranked him the fastest baserunner and the best defensive outfielder in the Cardinals organization. Hahn said in a statement the Sox have kept their eyes on him since the Cardinals drafted him in the second round out of high school in 2011.

"Charlie is a left-handed-hitting outfielder whose speed and defensive ability enable him to do a number of things well to help his team win ballgames," Hahn said.

Duke, 33, was 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA, 20 holds and 42 strikeouts in 53 relief appearances this season. His departure leaves Dan Jennings as the only left-handed pitcher in the Sox bullpen and takes away one of their stable options for the seventh and eighth innings.

Duke said he was a little groggy but not completely surprised when Hahn called him about 9 a.m. Sunday. It is his first in-season trade in 12 major-league seasons, and he joked it was a milestone "career achievement" that left only retirement as the final box to check.

Duke said it would be tough to part with teammates who were "like brothers." But he also was excited to join a Cardinals team looking to stay in contention, and one of the closest teams to his home in Nashville, Tenn.

"I played against the Cardinals for a long time and was always envious of how well they played the game of baseball," Duke said. "So now I'm going to get to experience their process and the way they do things and kind of what makes them so successful year in and year out."

Duke's departure frees up money for the Sox. He signed a three-year, $15 million contract before the 2015 season, including $5 million this season and $5.5 million in 2017.

[email protected]

Twitter @ChiTribKane

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