tampabay.com

Dukes sits out again to deal with fallout

But the Rays plan to play him in Chicago.

By MARC TOPKIN and EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 25, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays kept Elijah Dukes on the bench for a second straight day Thursday but said the outfielder will be with the team in Chicago and play this weekend against the White Sox.

Manager Joe Maddon said he made the decision to allow Dukes more time to deal with the fallout from Wednesday's St. Petersburg Times report of allegations by his estranged wife that he threatened to kill her and their two young children.

But the Rays might be using the time to make sure they are comfortable with how Dukes, 22, is responding to the situation and the team's handling of it.

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who has not commented publicly on the situation, will be in Chicago on Saturday and likely talk with Dukes. Whether Dukes is allowed to play before then remains to be seen.

On Wednesday, Maddon said Dukes was likely to play in Thursday's afternoon game. But when the lineup was posted about noon, Dukes was not in it.

"I felt it was the right thing to do right now," Maddon said.

The Rays received a few dozen e-mails and calls critical of their decision not to take disciplinary action, but Maddon said he was "not necessarily concerned" with the reaction from the Tropicana Field fans when making his decision.

More so, he said, was how Dukes would be able to handle playing.

"Maybe the lack of concentration on his part during the course of the game, or focus, whether or not that may be true or not, I'm still considering that," Maddon said.

Dukes has been off-limits for interviews since talking briefly to the Times on Tuesday night. But that hasn't stopped him from talking to the media.

He twice yelled a derogatory term for homosexuals at a Times photographer who was taking photos of him Thursday in the dugout during the game and made an obscene hand gesture to another photographer. He cursed at a TV reporter Wednesday, then later wheeled around and said angrily, "What are you going to do about it?"

Maddon would not say whether Dukes would regain his job as the starting centerfielder, only that he would return to action: "I do expect him to play in Chicago, I'll say it that way."

While Maddon said the events of the past few days have affected the team, players said it was not a distraction. Dukes' estranged wife, NiShea Gilbert, said the situation has definitely affected her.

She said she has been hounded with calls from media outlets, staying with her mother to "lay low" and had to be treated Thursday for an asthma attack her doctor said was induced by the stress.

"The past few days have been rough because all the people with negative comments," said Gilbert, a Ruskin middle school teacher who said she receives no income during the summer. "Only I know what I've been through. People keep saying it's about the money, but I'm struggling. ... I shouldn't have to worry about how our kids are going to eat when he's driving an Escalade."

Gilbert has tried to address the money situation through the courts. In her two most recent requests for domestic violence restraining orders, Gilbert asked for significant temporary support from Dukes.

In the request self-filed May 1, she checked the box asking for temporary alimony of $2,000 every other week and $10,000 per month in child support, $14,000 total a month. Gilbert did not attend the hearing on whether to make the injunction permanent in this case, saying her child was ill.

In a second request for protection self-filed May 17, she asked for $2,000 in temporary alimony, but this time she checked the weekly box. And she asked for $10,000 in child support every other week rather than every month. That would total about $28,000 per month. Dukes makes $380,000, the major-league minimum in salary, over six months.

A hearing before a judge to decide on a permanent protective order and other issues is scheduled for Wednesday.

"I was just checking the boxes off to get the paperwork done," Gilbert said when questioned about the amount of the requests. "But I do feel like he should be compensating his kids and his wife."