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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Rockies hand Shields first loss of year
Dukes sits for baseball reasons.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 16, 2007
DENVER - The decision not to play Elijah Dukes again, the altitude and the potential offensive and defensive effects of Coors Field were all side issues Friday, Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
What mattered most was how James Shields pitched.
Shields didn't pitch that poorly, but he didn't do as well as he had been, either, leading to what became a 12-2 loss to the Rockies, the Rays' third straight defeat.
Shields had a lot going for him. He was 6-0, had left each of his 13 starts with the Rays tied or ahead, and ranked among the American League leaders in strikeouts, ERA, innings and opponents average. He has recently received national attention and serious All-Star consideration. Wednesday, he got engaged to his girlfriend of six years, Ryane Barber.
But none of that helped him in his first experience pitching in the rarefied air of Coors Field. A leadoff ground-ball double, a two-strike, two-out RBI single by Todd Helton and two home runs three pitches apart led to four first-inning runs, and the suddenly slumping Rays offense - three runs in its last 27 innings - couldn't make it up.
"There's a big-time difference, " Shields said. "It's a lot harder to breathe out here. You've got to keep the ball down. The mound out here is real flat. You've got to make adjustments. ... You're going to have flatter pitches. It showed on the breaking balls. ... That's just the way it goes. You come out here and it's just homefield advantage."
Shields seemed disgusted in describing the first as "terrible, absolutely terrible." And he showed it, making an adjustment to pitch more inside, and retiring 14 straight batters after that.
"Nothing exceptionally wrong, " Maddon said. "He pitched really well once again."
The Rays 29-36 kept it close until Helton's ground-ball single off Shields' glove made it 5-2. Maddon removed Shields, who'd thrown only 85 pitches, for pinch-hitter Jorge Cantu, who flied out, and for a ragged bullpen that gave up seven runs in the last two innings. Under AL rules, Maddon said he would have left Shields in.
The Rockies are 16-6 since May 22, the best record in the majors over that span, and climbed over .500 (34-33), for the first time since April 9.
Dukes was out of the lineup for a third straight day purely for baseball reasons, team officials said. Earlier Friday, Dukes' estranged wife, NiShea Gilbert, filed divorce papers in Hillsborough County circuit court, said her attorney, Catherine W. Real.
"It's entirely my decision to not play Elijah today, " Maddon said. "For me right now, it's a baseball decision. Elijah had a day off (Wednesday). He did not participate (Thursday). Obviously his numbers (.193 average and 4-for-47 slump) are not the greatest right now. He's struggling a bit. The time may help him right now."
Dukes requested and was given a "personal day" off Wednesday after a Times report that a teen foster child told police she was pregnant with his child, though an investigation yielded no charges. State criminal statutes do not apply to consensual sex between a 17-year-old and a 22-year-old.
"It's completely Joe's decision, " executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "Elijah showed up yesterday and I think is in a much better frame of mind than he was Wednesday."
With Delmon Young in center, Jonny Gomes made two exciting plays in right and had three hits.