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06/05/11 5:07 PM ET

Saunders spending time on highlight reels

PHOENIX -- D-backs starter Joe Saunders found himself on ESPN's SportsCenter two nights in a row for two different reasons.

On Friday, he was wearing bubblegum on the top of his hat, courtesy of closer J.J. Putz.

"I saw that," Saunders said. "My friendly pitching coach came in and told me. I was giving him a fist and he said, 'Hey, how's it going. You have bubblegum on your hat.'"

On Saturday, he was diving and making a backhanded toss to first base that earned him a spot on SportsCenter's top plays.

The play was a replica of one earlier in the year that he couldn't make in Chicago.

"I can make that play," he said. "I was mad for not making that play because I've made it a ton of times, so it was a good play."

Saunders said that when he was with the Angels, Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki would often test him by bunting.

"I've had some practice with it and finally proved the fact that I could make that play."

He nabbed Ian Desmond on the third-inning play and tabbed Putz as the team's main culprit in the clubhouse -- and dugout -- pranks.

"J.J. usually tries to get a different guy each time," Saunders said. "Whoever's dumb enough like me not to pay attention."

Saunders credits healthy leg for success

PHOENIX -- D-backs starter Joe Saunders said he kept it "On the hush-hush."

But after his third straight win on Saturday, the left-hander opened up about a leg issue that was bothering him for the first month and a half of the season.

"Knock on wood," he said. "It's not a factor anymore."

Saunders said that after his first start of the season, against the Cubs in cold Chicago, he tweaked something in his left leg that made it hard to push off the rubber and keep the ball down in the strike zone.

"It was just sore," he said. "It was tough to me to push off like I was capable of doing, and it was a struggle to go deep in games.

"I'm feeling a lot better now. It's nice to see the velocity come back. It gives you more confidence."

Saunders has pitched at least seven innings in two of his last three starts and has allowed two earned runs or less in three of his last four starts. He is 3-5 with a 4.32 ERA in 12 starts this season

"I think he has more life to his pitches," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's had pretty good movement and has kept the opponents off balance pretty well."

Duke excited for homecoming in Pittsburgh

PHOENIX -- Welcome back Zach.

Wednesday will serve as a homecoming of sorts for D-backs starter Zach Duke, who is slated to start against the Pirates at PNC Park.

Duke pitched six seasons in Pittsburgh after being selected by the Pirates in the 20th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.

"It's good to get back there," he said. "I spent a lot of time there, had some good memories, had some bad memories, but it will be good."

Duke earned an All-Star appearance with the Pirates in 2009, during a campaign in which he went 11-16 with a 4.06 ERA.

He is scheduled to face Paul Maholm. The two were teammates for six seasons.

Duke is 31-31 with a 4.26 ERA in 81 career starts at PNC Park.

"It's a pitchers' ballpark for sure," he said. "Left field gets deep in a hurry. It plays very fair, and it's a good place to play."

Anthony Fenech is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.