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Dukes traded to Nationals

3

December

The Rays finally had enough of Elijah Dukes.

The Rays confirmed and announced they have traded the troubled outfielder to the Nationals, and will get back minor-league left-hander Glenn Gibson, who was 4-3, 3.10 in 12 starts for short-season Class A Vermont this season.

"We have been committed to providing Elijah the support needed to get his personal and professional life back on track,'' Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said in a statement. "He has made progress, and a logical next step is a change of cities and a fresh start for him and his family.''

After the teams agreed to the trade, Nationals officials met this morning with Dukes at a hotel near the airport here in Nashville, site of the winter meetings. According to the Washington Post, Nats veteran Dmitri Young - the older brother of former Rays OF Delmon Young - was also at the meeting and he is expected to serve as a mentor to Dukes.

Also, the Rays lost utility infielder Josh Wilson on waivers to the Pirates. The Rays must have taken him off the 40-man roster to make room for an expected addition. And there is chatter that the Mariners are interested in RHP Edwin Jackson with the Rays, as at least one scout said, interssted in 1B/DH Ben Broussard, who could end up the lefthanded bat they are looking for.

Trading Dukes seems to make it more likely the lefthanded hitter the Rays are seeking will have to be an outfielder. As it stands right now, they'd go into the season with Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes as their two options, and obviously there are questions about Baldelli's health. Plus they need a DH.

Gibson, 20, was a fourth-round pick by Washington in 2006, and was cited by Baseball America as having the best changeup and best control of pitchers in the Nationals system, and previously had been named as having the best curveball. He is the son of former major-leagur Paul Gibson, who pitched for the Tigers, Mets and Yankees from 1988-96.

There had been some circumstantial evidence earlier in the day that the Dukes deal was in the works, including word that Nationals GM Jim Bowden was overheard on his cell phone yesterday at the airport talking to someone named "Elijah.'' Both teams have scheduled announcements at 5 p.m. Plus, the deal would explain why Dukes, the troubled outfielder, hasn't played since his latest eruption after being ejected from a Dominican League game on Thursday night.

Dukes was dropped from the Rays active roster in June after a series of off-field and personal issues, including allegedly threatening his wife and kids. He also has had numerous legal problems, most recently a charge of marijuana possession. Dukes recently told Licey teammates he would welcome a chance to play elsewhere, likely figuring it would help to be away from the Tampa area where he had many of his problems.

He had been having a successful and somewhat uneventful stint in the Dominican Republic until Thursday, when he was ejected after a strikeout, charged the umpire and had to be restrained by teammates. Earlier in the game he gestured at fans.

The manager of the Licey team, Tim Tolman, who also happens to be the Nationals third-base coach, said that Dukes has left the Dominican for good because he missed his family.

"He is not coming back,'' Tolman said from the Dominican on Monday. "He left on good terms with everyone, with his teammates and with the front office. Yes, he got ejected the other night, but that always happens in these games. He had gone home for about 10 days for Thanksgiving and then came back for a couple games but said he wanted to go home to be with his family. That's not uncommon.''

Nationals GM Jim Bowden is known for his willingness to take chances with troubled players, and also tends to be infatuated with athletes who have extraordinary tools, as Dukes does.

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:33am]

    

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