Dukes erupts yet again

The embattled outfielder gets ejected and charges an umpire in the Dominican Republic.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA and MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writers
Published December 1, 2007

Apparently, Elijah Dukes hasn't calmed down.

The troubled outfielder was enjoying what Rays officials termed a quiet and successful return to the field with the Licey team in the Dominican Republic - until Thursday night.

Dukes, 23, reacted emotionally and angrily to a third-strike call, going chest-to-chest with an umpire after he was ejected in the ninth inning. He had to be restrained by several teammates at different times.

"It got a little ugly," said Jesus Campos, baseball operations vice president of the host Gigantes team. "If it wasn't for (teammate) Andy Tracy holding him back, things could have gotten a lot worse. ... It definitely wasn't a safe situation for the umpire because (Dukes, 6-2, 250) is a big guy."

Dukes, dropped from the Rays roster in June after a series of off-field and personal problems and confrontations, objected to a strike call in his first at-bat. He was hit by a pitch in his next at-bat, flung his bat to the ground and on his way to first made a suggestive gesture to the crowd, which had been jeering him. He also had words with the catcher when he shook his head after taking a pitch.

It's not uncommon, however, for these games to become heated - and this one was between the league's top teams - with players jawing and fans screaming and throwing bottles onto the field, and umpires are quick to eject players in order to retain control.

The Rays were unaware of the incident, with spokesman Rick Vaughn saying, "We are not able to properly comment until we have had a chance to speak with Elijah and officials from the Licey ballclub."

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Dukes has "made a lot of positive strides," but the team admits this offseason is critical in determining whether he can control his anger and become a successful big-leaguer.

And with this week's trade of rightfielder Delmon Young, Dukes has an opportunity to earn considerable playing time.

Dukes was playing for the first time in 12 days. In 18 games he is hitting .236 (13-for-55) with two homers and six RBIs.