tampabay.com

Suspended Dukes threatening to quit

By MARC TOPKIN
Published August 2, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Troubled prospect Elijah Dukes was suspended indefinitely by the Devil Rays on Tuesday and responded by telling Baseball America he was questioning whether he would continue to play baseball.

"I have no idea when or if I'll be back," Dukes told the magazine. "I packed up all my stuff and I'm headed home. To be honest, I don't even know about baseball anymore. Everything is just wearing on me, and this year has just been so frustrating. I'm trying to keep my nose clean and keep to myself, but things just keep getting turned around. I'm tired of it."

Dukes, 22, was to be reinstated Tuesday from a five-game suspension by the International League, but the Rays extended the suspension as they review the details of his latest incident, when he was ejected from a July 25 game and refused to leave the dugout.

"It's currently under review by the front office," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "We haven't come to any conclusions yet."

The extent of the additional discipline will be based on the accumulation of disciplinary issues Dukes has been involved in and conceivably could last the rest of the season.

Dukes, an outfielder for Triple-A Durham, has been suspended at least twice by the Rays (and benched another time) and once by the International League this season and has been ejected from two games. He has had an altercation with coach Richie Hebner in the Bulls clubhouse, a fight with teammate Ryan Knox in a hotel lobby (which led to a 15-game suspension) and a dugout incident with Bulls manager John Tamargo.

He also was quoted as making some of the disrespectful comments about the Rays and Bulls organizations last week in the controversial USA Today article that drew a strong rebuke from Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon, including the line about how big-leaguers "shower in Evian" while the Durham players "use sewer water."

Dukes told Baseball America on Tuesday that he was misquoted in the article and has been misrepresented as the reason why fellow top prospects Delmon Young (who was suspended 50 games after throwing a bat at an umpire) and B.J. Upton (who was arrested in June on a DWI charge) got into trouble.

"It's all the same thing," Dukes said. "They've all been saying that I'm a bad influence on those two guys for two years. I didn't room with Delmon this year (he did at Double-A Montgomery in 2005), but still I'm the bad apple.

"I didn't tell Delmon to throw his bat at that umpire. I didn't tell B.J. to go driving his car after he had some drinks. I don't even hang out with those guys. It was always just me in my apartment after games or whatever."

Dukes had a troubled childhood in Tampa and numerous off-field legal issues, but he was a third-round draft pick by the Rays in 2002 and signed with them rather than pursue a college football career.

Though he might have been speaking out of frustration, Dukes sounded Tuesday as if he may have regretted his decision.

"I just don't know about baseball anymore," he said. "All this stuff keeps following me and now this. I'm tired of it. I don't know if I'm coming back or what. I don't know about the (Arizona) Fall League. I don't know about anything other than I'm going home.

"I'm not saying I should have tried to get to the NFL, but maybe I should have done something else."

Rays officials said Dukes, who is hitting .293 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs in 80 games at Durham, has not said anything to them about quitting baseball.