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Dukes heading to Dominican league

The Rays' troubled outfielder will begin a season in winter ball a day after another chaotic court date.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 10, 2007


Deactivated and troubled Rays outfielder Elijah Dukes is headed back to the baseball field, leaving today to play winter ball for Licey in the Dominican Republic.

Dukes hit .190 with 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 52 games for the Rays before legal and personal problems led the team to drop him from the active roster in June, though he remained on the payroll and part of the organization.

A decision has not been made on whether he will rejoin the big-league team next spring.

"Elijah continues to make great strides," Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We're still at the point in the process where it would be premature to elaborate much more, but we feel like he is at the stage where it's appropriate for him to go out and play some in the winter league and take it from there."

The Licey team is managed by Nationals coach Tim Tolman; a Rays staffer is expected to be in the Dominican for at least part of the season as well.

Meanwhile, the courtroom discord that has marked Dukes' divorce case continued until the end.

After Dukes missed a scheduled visit with his two children by estranged wife NiShea Gilbert last weekend because of what his lawyer called confusion over logistics, a judge Tuesday gave him four hours to decide if he wanted to see his children before leaving today.

Dukes wouldn't comment on his decision. In court, he said he no longer wanted to pay child support if Gilbert continued to make it difficult to visit his children.

Also, the Rays are expected to release their 2008 schedule today, featuring the first visit by the Cubs.