tampabay.com

Dukes takes seat again; Gomes benefits most

By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 17, 2007


DENVER - OF Elijah Dukes was not in the Devil Rays starting lineup for a fourth straight game Saturday and it's not clear when, or if, he will return.

Manager Joe Maddon likes the way the lineup looks without the troubled rookie, and with Delmon Young in centerfield and Jonny Gomes in right. Plus, Rocco Baldelli is expected back as soon as Friday.

"I think Delmon looks fine in centerfield, so I just want to keep giving Jon his opportunity right there, " Maddon said. "I love his hustle. ... He's made three great plays since he's been back. He's swinging the bat great.

"Jon wants to play and Jon plays it right. If he's going to keep doing that, we'll keep running him out there."

Maddon said Friday that his decision to bench Dukes was made for "baseball" reasons, ostensibly a result of his protracted slump and .192 average. Dukes pinch-hit in the sixth inning Saturday and bounced into a double play.

But there are other possible reasons for Dukes' benching. The Rays could be punishing him for causing a distraction and being unavailable to play Wednesday; or sending a message to Dukes, as well as the other players, that they are tired of his act; or holding him out to avoid injury because they are working on a trade.

Normally, Dukes would likely play today, with a day game following a night game, but Maddon said he hadn't decided. If Dukes doesn't play today, it could become a matter of if rather than when because Maddon said Baldelli will be back Friday "if everything goes well" on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham that starts tonight. When he returns, the Rays will have to create a space on the roster.

CHANGING UP: Now that his 13-game unbeaten streak is over, RHP James Shields will change some things. Like his shaving pattern. And his socks.

"I've been growing out my goatee the whole time so I'm probably going to trim it now, " he said. "I've been wearing the same socks, so now I can finally get rid of my hole-y socks."

AS EASY AS 1-2-3: More amazing than the Rays batters seeing only three pitches in the fifth inning Friday may be that there is a Web site that keeps track of such occurrences.

And according to the list on http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~rickert/BB/threepitchinning. html, it was the sixth time the Rays have been involved in a three-pitch inning: They also hit into one Sept. 29, 2005, against Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia, and they have thrown four: Jim Mecir against Baltimore and Rolando Arrojo against Cleveland in 1998, and Travis Harper against Seattle in 2000 and New York in 2003.

Friday's took place when Akinori Iwamura singled, Brendan Harris hit into a double play and Carl Crawford flied out. Not surprisingly, Harris said it was over before he realized what had happened. "I didn't even have my batting gloves off yet, " he said.

MISCELLANY: Ty Wigginton extended his hitting streak to 10 games, having gone 17-for-35. ... Carlos Pena has 10 homers in his last 33 games. ... RHP Wade Davis (3-0, 1.84, 88 strikeouts in 781/3 innings) is being promoted from Class A Vero to Double-A Montgomery and will start for the Biscuits on Wednesday.