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'Hurting' Dukes takes a day off
The Rays grant the request; his return is expected today.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA and MARC TOPKIN
Published June 14, 2007
[Brian Cassella | Times]
Elijah Dukes' bats sit in the Rays' dugout. The Devil Rays expect Elijah Dukes to rejoin the team today.
ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays expect Elijah Dukes to rejoin the team today after the troubled outfielder asked for Wednesday off to deal with the fallout from his latest off-field incident.
The Times reported Wednesday that a teen told police Dukes got her pregnant during consensual sex while she was a foster child at the home of Dukes' step-grandmother. There were no charges because state criminal statutes do not apply to consensual sex between a 17-year-old and a 22-year-old.
Dukes' agent contacted team officials shortly after noon to ask if Dukes could have the day off and the Rays agreed it was best for all parties to give him what they called a "personal day, " even though it left them shorthanded and with several players out of position for Wednesday's game against the Padres, which they lost 9-0.
Dukes was upset and dealing with a lot of issues, his mother, Phyllis, said, and spent the day with one of his brothers in Tampa. "He's hurting by what's going on, " she said. "It can get real hard on someone."
Manager Joe Maddon said after Wednesday's game that "as of right now he's supposed to be here" for today's noon game. Dukes has been the Rays' starting centerfielder despite a .193 average, and seems likely to stay in the lineup since the other centerfielder, B.J. Upton, was placed on the disabled list.
Maddon said he learned of the latest incident when he read Wednesday's newspaper and was later told by executive vice president Andrew Friedman that Dukes would not be with the team Wednesday.
Friedman, in a statement, said: "After conversations with Elijah and his agent today, the organization approved Elijah's absence tonight."
Alan Nero, who heads the agency that represents Dukes, did not return a call from the Times.
When the Times reported May 23 that Dukes' estranged wife alleged he threatened to kill her and their children, Dukes was with the team but not in the lineup for the next two home games, then returned to action when the team went on the road. After today's game, the Rays leave on a six-game trip to Colorado and Arizona.
"Elijah is not here today, and he's not going to be here today, and we're going to play one man short, " Maddon said. "Just based on the events of today we gave him kind of a personal day and we're going to leave it at that."
Dukes' absence was more significant because the Rays are without Upton, forcing them to move Delmon Young to centerfield on Wednesday. They are calling up Jonny Gomes today.
"It's definitely tough because those guys are key parts to the team, " leftfielder Carl Crawford said. "It's just sad it has to happen right when the team is starting to play better and then we have a setback. It just seems like when we take one step forward we take four steps back. But we're going to keep playing hard and keep looking for ways to get it done. That's all we can do."
Dukes, undergoing counseling through the team's employee assistance program, has declined to comment on all personal matters since apologizing May 29 to his teammates for being a distraction.
Dukes' mother said her advice to her son is to keep his mind on baseball.
"All I can say is everything that goes on right now in his life is a blessing, " she said.
Times staff writer Abbie VanSickle contributed to this report.